Yanchep National Park, Perth

Yanchep National Park is situated about 42 km North of Perth. Its main attractions are the Crystal cave, Koala sanctuary, Kangaroo colonies, and bush walk trails.

You can stroll through a raised wooden walkway to get a glimpse of koalas in their natural habitat. We witnessed sleepy koalas perched in very high trees. I waited patiently to get a view of a koala that ate or moved. Nothing seemed to move. As they are nocturnal animals, these cuddly creatures sleep during the day. Their sheer innocence capture visitors and they try to monitor every movement in their video or capture the photos of these animals.

Kangaroos are a common sight in the lawn. You can watch them nearby in their natural habitat. They are everywhere in the manicured lawn, not at all intimidated by the human presence in their precinct. I was able to capture a  snoozing kangaroo closeby.

You can buy tickets for Crystal Cave tour from McNess House Visitor Centre within the National Park. It’s a good idea to purchase tickets for the Crystal Cave first and look around for Kangaroos and Koalas. The guided cave tour is at hourly intervals. Henry White first entered the Crystal Cave in 1903. The entrance to the cave remains the same since then. As you walk down the steps to the underground, you walk on the same footsteps to experience the cave. The tour takes about 45 minutes, and the tour guides provide valuable information about the geology of the cave. Some places are quite dark, and you encounter lots of stairs and a few narrow passages along the way. The waxy looking growths inside the cave are the results of slowly dripping water. Mildly acidic water mainly from rainfall percolates down dissolving calcium carbonate as it passes through limestone. Water leaves behind a small deposit which gradually builds up over a long period to unusual cave decorations of different shapes and forms. Stalactites (icicle-like deposit hanging from the roof of the cave) and stalagmites (icicle-like deposit rising from the floor of the cave) adorn the cave.

Stalactites

Yanchep tree adventure offers courses whereby you learn to climb and zip-line through trees. It’s the best way to enjoy bush-land it seems. Bookings are essential for this adventure.

During our walk, we encountered the unexpected. All of a sudden, a cloud of flies swarmed over us, buzzing and blinding us with their presence. We somehow managed to escape from the ordeal by jumping into our car and headed to the city.

Baked Salmon

Fish cooked with spices and made into a spicy curry makes all the difference; King Fish, Spanish Mackerel, and Snapper are to name a few.

Some fish taste best when they are deep fried in oil at high temperature at first and gradually lowering the temperature. Salmon, king of all fish rich in Omega, doesn’t taste good when it’s deep fried. However, when it’s is baked in the oven, the taste and aroma that comes off are beautiful.

In the sub-continent and Sri Lanka, fried fish is something people relish daily with rice and curry. As for vegetarians, pappadam is a must with the daily intake of food, and for non-vegetarians, fried fish is a necessary accompaniment to go with the rice. In the past, I cooked spicy Salmon curry with evaporated milk, curry powder, and spices. Recently I decided to bake the Salmon fish. To my surprise, everyone who tasted the Salmon enjoyed it.

Ingredients:

  • 500 gm – Salmon Cutlets
  • 1 Tsp – Ginger powder
  • 1 Tsp – Garlic powder
  • 1 Tsp – Onion powder
  • 2 Tsp – Curry powder
  • ½ Tsp – Turmeric powder
  • 2 Sprig – Rosemary
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ – Red Capsicum
  • ¼ – Green Capsicum
  • ¼ – Yellow Capsicum
  • ¼ – Onion

Method:

Wash Salmon and pat dry in a paper towel. Rub with garlic powder, ginger powder, and onion powder all over. Add turmeric powder, curry powder and salt and coat the fish. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

Cut ¼ of red capsicum, yellow capsicum and green capsicum into long strips. Slice ¼ of red onion; Cover roasting tin (or baking tray) with baking paper. Arrange the fish, capsicum, onion, and rosemary and place the tin in a preheated oven,180° C. Cover the top with another baking paper and bake for 35 minutes. At the end leave the fish for a few minutes in the oven and remove it.

Helpful Hints:

  1. Use baking paper instead of aluminium foil for crispy skin.
  2. Capsicum and onion get cooked in the oil generated from the fish. You can add the capsicum and onion after 20 minutes for tender vegetables.
  3. Adding garlic, ginger and onion powder first to the fish before turmeric and curry powder ensures that the fish is coated well with these spices.
  4. I use King’s Curry powder, which is available in Sri Lankan spice shops. You can use any other mild to hot curry powder.
Baked Salmon

Sambar -Healthy Vegetarian Dish

Making Sambar involves 2 steps.

Step 1: Cook dhal and other ingredients in a pressure cooker.

Step 2: Cook vegetables separately in a pot and add the cooked dhal into the pot.

Step 1:

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup – Toor Dhal (soak for 2 hours)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Long Green chillies (Mild)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp -Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp – Turmeric
  • Salt – little
  • 500 ML -Water

Method:

First, wash the dhal well. Add dhal to the pressure cooker together with the above ingredients and cook according to the pressure cooker instruction. If you use an Indian pressure cooker (I use Prestige pressure cooker) stop after 4 whistles. Dhal needs to be cooked until soft. Leave it aside to cool down.

Cooked dhal

Step 2 :

Ingredients:

Cut the following vegetables to bite size pieces.

  1. 2- Small carrots
  2. 150 gm – Beans
  3. ¼ – Cabbage
  4. 2- Small potatoes
  5. 1-Eggplant
  6. 1 -Moringa (optional)
Bite size vegetables, tomato and onion

Other Ingredients

  • 2 -Tomatoes
  • 1½ tbsp – Cumin seeds
  • 1½ tbsp – Mustard seeds
  • 1 Red Onion (Medium)
  • 2 tbsp – Sambar Powder
  • 1 tbsp – Curry Powder
  • 1/2 tsp – Turmeric
  • 1 – Sprig curry leaf
  • 2 tsp -Tamarind paste 
  • 1/4 tsp – Asafoetida powder
  • ¼ cup -Coriander leaves
  • 1tsp – Sesame oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Roast cumin seed and mustard seed in a pan until the mustard seed splutters. Add little water (2 tbsp) and with the formation of bubbles, add the Onion. Once the Onion is half cooked add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

(Alternatively, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds. As they begin to splutter, add onions and cook until light brown. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes). I use water instead of oil in my cooking now.

Add sambar powder, curry powder, and turmeric and stir it over. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for ten minutes. If there is excess dhal liquid in the pressure cooker pour it over vegetable mix. If there isn’t enough dhal liquid add water to the vegetable mixture.

Once the vegetables are tender and soft, add the dhal from the pressure cooker, and stir it well. After a few minutes add the tamarind paste and curry leaf. Stir the pot and add asafoetida. Add the coriander leaves and switch off the cooker. Finally, the sesame oil and mix it with a large spoon.

Serve hot with rice, bread or roti.

Sambar powder and Asafoetida powder

Helpful Hints:     

1.Tempering:  Traditionally an aromatic tempering is done to give flavour to Sambar. Heat oil (1 tbsp vegetable oil) in a non-stick pan; add mustard seeds (1tsp) and fennel seeds (1 tsp) and once mustard seeds start to splutter, add finely chopped onion (1/2 Onion), fresh curry leaves and dried red chilli (1). Once the onion turns golden brown, drain the mixture and pour it over the sambar and mix it.

My husband has some heart problem so I avoid tempering now.

2. A variety of vegetables give flavour to Sambar. You can use vegetables like Okra (ladies’ finger), Pumpkin, Cauliflower and so on.

3. Once the Sambar is cool divide it into 2 or 3 portions and store in the fridge in air-tight glass bowls. Re-heat it when required.

4. Curry Powder – King’s Curry Powder is available in Sri Lankan or Indian spice shops. You may want to use Keen’s Curry Powder or Clive of India Curry Powder which is available in the Super Markets.

5. Sambar Powder -MTR Sambar Powder is available in Indian spice shops.

Sydney Metro Opened on 26 May 2019

The Sydney Metro is the brainchild of then Transport Minister (current Premier) Gladys Berejiklian and former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. There were no rail services to the burgeoning suburbs, Cherrybrook, Kellyville, Castle Hill, Norwest, and Rouse Hill. In the last ten years, Hills area has become a lucrative business hub attracting many private entrepreneurs. Many new homes were built around this area with a booming population, but the only thing that lacked was a railway line.

The long-awaited Sydney Metro train which opened for the public on Sunday 26 May, covers a 36 KM line from Tallawong to Chatswood. It’s a significant milestone for commuters, especially for those in the Hills area.

As much as the fauna and flora add beauty to nature, bridges, roads, and railway lines showcase the human potential and glorify the surroundings. The infrastructures benefit communities, and give a sense of belonging, that the public is the joint owners of the public property. Yesterday, this milestone was celebrated in high spirit. In the first six hours after the gates opened, 90,000 people rode on the new Sydney Metro Line.

It’s a hi-tech fully automated system. The heart of the entire Metro System is the Operational Control Centre in Tallawong. One room is filled with powerful computers which monitor the movement of trains along the railway, the location, and direction of each train. These trains are some of the most advanced on the planet.

Some commuters have reservation about the driverless trains. One spokesperson said that people have to imagine that they are travelling in a horizontal lift. My husband and I, travelled on this historic day 26 May 2019, from one end to the other end of the entire 36KM line. The train was packed to its maximum and a few platforms were a sea of colours.

There was an unexpected delay on one train when a door failed to align properly, which was immediately removed from service. Overall, it’s a great achievement which will benefit present and future generations. Many years ago, when my daughter attended the University, she had to catch 2 buses and a train to reach her destination, which took about one and a half hours. The Metro train would take only 15 minutes to cover the same distance.

People queue outside

Awaiting the train

Car park and commuters queue

Steps to the platform

Inside view of the station

Top view of the station

Train Underground

Train Above ground

Simple Mysore Dhal Curry

Cooking time: 15 minutes                                               Serves: 4

Lentils are many and varied, chana dhal, mung dhal, toor dhal, chick pea, and mysore dhal to name a few. Amongst these mysore dhal is the only lentil that can be cooked quickly and easily. Unlike other lentils there is no need to soak mysore dhal. The dhal curry below is a simple protein dish which is healthy and delicious.

My husband used to take “Mysore Dhal Curry” for International Lunches at his work place and I can safely say that it was a popular dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups – Mysore Dhal
  • 1 – Medium size red onion
  • 2 – Small red chillies (hot)
  • 1 – Long green chillies (mild)
  • 500 ml – water
  • 1 tsp – Tumeric
  • 3 tbsp – Evaporated Milk
  • 1 sprig – Curry leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tsp – Pepper Corn
  • ½ tsp – Cumin seed
  • 4– garlic cloves

Garnish

2 tbsp – chopped coriander leaves

Tempering

  • 1 tsp – Fennel seed
  • 1 tsp – Mustard seed
  • 1 red chilli,dry
  • ½ – red onion
  • 1 sprig – Curry leaf
  • 2tbs – Vegetable oil or Sunflower oil

Method:

Wash the dhal until the water is clear. Toss the dhal in a pan, add 500 ml water and cook in a stove. Once the water begins to boil white foam appear on top after 5minutes; scoop out the white foam with a spoon.

Cut green and red chillies into small pieces, chop onion to fine pieces and slice 1 garlic diagonally; Add all three into the pan and let it boil for 5 minutes. Add turmeric and curry leaves and let it boil for further 5 minutes. Once the orange colour changes to yellow add 3 table spoon of evaporated milk and salt and let it simmer for a minute.

Pound pepper, cumin seed and rest of the garlic in a mortar and pestle to a coarse mixture. Add the mixture to the dhal stirring it once. Finally garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Remove from the fire and pour it on to a dish.

Tempering:

Heat oil in a non-stick pan; add mustard seed, fennel seed, finely chopped 1/2 onion, red chilli and curry leaves. Saute until the mustard seeds start to crackle and the onion turns golden brown. Pour this tempering over the cooked dhal curry.

This dhal could be eaten with rice, bread, naan or roti.

Helpful Hints:

1.Evaporated milk can be replaced by coconut milk or soy milk as per your health requirement.

2. 200 gm baby spinach leaves can be added as the final step before removing the dhal curry from the stove.

3. Instead of frying the onion and spices in oil for tempering, the ingredients can be baked in the oven. This is ideal for those who have heart related issues.

4.If you eat this dhal regularly you can avoid tempering completely. Tempering gives an additional flavour to the dish.

Christmas Island

The very first time I heard the name Christmas Island many years ago, my imagination painted a beautiful picture of a colourful, vibrant place with the Christmas spirit. Later I read that Captain William Mynors of the Royal Mary vessel, named the island when he sailed past it on Christmas Day, in 1643

This Island was a detention centre for refugees and asylum seekers from 2001 until 2018 when the centre was closed. The detention centre was found to be inadequate in terms of size, amenity, and security. Several protests staged by the inmates of the detention centre demanding adequate facilities didn’t impress the relevant authority.

Recently I came across an article in a local paper which caught my attention as the writer described Christmas Island as a “Crab Island”. Its geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a growth of dense forests and has become a habitat for several small creatures.  A variety of crab population exists in this island, the red crab, in particular, draws a lot of attention from the public. These crabs are purely land-based crabs. The red crab in Christmas Island is noted for its visual and impressive migration once a year. The red crabs spread over the land area in a spectacular fashion. Imagine around 50 Million red crabs migrating from the dense forests to the sea through the land during the breeding season and then returning to the forest in reverse migration after finishing their business.

The current red crab population in millions outnumber the human population of a few thousand in the island. The crab population is declining in recent years with an influx of yellow ants. An exploding population of the yellow crazy ant, accidentally introduced to Christmas Island and Australia from Africa is causing the ecological damage. These ants raid crab burrows in the forest in large numbers and kill them.

Red Crab Migration Video

My vegetable garden and the uninvited guest

I wonder whether you ever tried to grow a vegetable garden in your backyard. If you haven’t, I like to share my story with you. It was a decision we made last year, and after much deliberation decided to grow tomatoes and eggplants for a start. When we visited the local garden centre for advice, the staff provided us with the necessary information, the choice of seedlings, soil, manure, vegetation, etc. We bought a few seedlings for our pilot project.

Most of our backyard is cemented, except for a few yards along the fence which was overgrown with weeds. My husband cleared the bush and prepared the soil for tomato and eggplant seedlings. It took him a few days for the clean-up and afterward, with the help of his friend, laid a water pipeline along the fence for the vegetable garden.

Our backyard fence is in an elevated position about two feet above the ground level. The tomato and eggplant seedlings were planted at the appropriate distance apart with plenty of sunlight. Watering at regular intervals, with the automated pipeline system made all the difference to the smooth and steady growth of the seedlings. The eggplants flowered, drooped and fell to the ground without any fruits. After a few weeks, we saw the fruiting of flowers in the tomato plants. As the tomatoes grew bigger, my early morning routine was to count the tomatoes. My headcount was eight on a particular day, and I was delighted with a big lush red tomato which was ripe and ready to eat.

I told my girls that I would harvest the tomatoes the next day. Temptation running high, I looked at the red lush tomato that night to make sure it was there. Next day, I woke up very early in the morning with the excitement of harvesting tomatoes from my own garden. I reached for the big ripe tomato, but alas it wasn’t there. My husband and children said they hadn’t been near the plant. Walking across the garden I noticed a half-eaten red tomato and few green tomatoes on the ground. I knew at once who the culprit was. A friend, in the neighbourhood, had a complaint before that possums ate all her rose petals and vegetables in the garden.

I was disappointed and said that I had to find a way to deal with the possum in the garden.

“Mum, you can’t get rid of the possum”, said my daughter. “Besides, a possum will not be able to go to the market to buy tomatoes. Let him enjoy the fruit and leave him alone”.

After an hour I plucked the remaining tomatoes and put them in a prominent spot for the possum to eat if he decided to return the next day. The possum never returned to taste the tomatoes I laid on the ground. Perhaps, he thought the tomatoes were poisoned. A week later, a heavy downpour washed off everything.

Soon after one night as we returned home by car, something dashed across our car towards a tree. I looked at my daughter and said that I have never seen a big rat in my life. She said that it was not a rat, but a possum. Two big eyes sparkled right into the headlight and the agile possum climbed the tree in a flash. It was complete darkness and my visibility was limited to the car headlight, but the possum being nocturnal animal scaled the entire horizon ahead.

Some Facts about Possums:

Possum is one of the iconic faunas in Australia. It is illegal to relocate or kill a possum. Possums are territorial and it’s not easy to relocate them. Even if they are relocated, new possums will move into the vacant territory. The old possum may return to its original territory or may die in a new territory.