Cod, turmeric and dill noodles. Photo: Laura EdwardsNo combination of flavours can create a party in your mouth the way a Vietnamese meal can. Just the anticipation of those contrasting textures, vibrant aromas – and that all-important balance of salty, sweet, sour and hot – always brings a smile to my face.
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COD, TURMERIC AND DILL NOODLES

Hanoi’s cha ca la vong is one of the most fragrant dishes you’ll ever come across. Don’t be shy with the dill – it’s what makes the dish – and using the nuoc cham as a dressing or dipping sauce will immediately add that zingy Vietnamese kick.

SERVES 4

3 cloves, garlic crushed

2cm ginger, grated

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp crushed dried chillies

600g skinned cod, cut into chunks

2 tbsp vegetable oil

salt and white pepper

1 large bunch dill, roughly chopped

3 spring onions (scallions), sliced

1/2 lemon

250g rice vermicelli, cooked according to packet instructions

3 tbsp toasted peanuts, crushed

nuoc cham

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 red chilli, chopped

1 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp fish sauce

For the cod, combine the garlic, ginger, turmeric, fish sauce, caster sugar and crushed chillies in a bowl. Add the fish, cover and marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes.

To make the nuoc cham, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Season marinated fish with white pepper, add to frying pan and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the fillets, cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, bring to a simmer. Gently fold through the dill and spring onions. Once wilted remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon. Check the seasoning, adding salt if needed.

Serve the fish with the noodles, peanuts and nuoc cham in separate bowls so everyone can help themselves.

CRISPY PORK, POMELO AND GREEN MANGO SALAD

I’ll often eat this as a meal in its own right, it’s so satisfying.

SERVES 4

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp light-flavoured oil

1kg pork belly, rind scored

1 pomelo, peeled and cut into segments

1 green mango, peeled and julienned

handful mint leaves

handful basil leaves

handful coriander leaves

2 spring onions (scallions), shredded

nuoc cham, to taste (see recipe above)

2 tbsp toasted peanuts, crushed

1 tbsp fried shallots

1 red chilli, sliced

Combine the sugar, fish sauce, garlic and oil into a shallow dish. Add the pork. Turn well in the marinade, cover and chill for 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the pork on a roasting tray and season the rind with salt. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the rind is crackled. Reduce the temperature to 180°C and roast for 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until very tender. Set aside to cool then shred into small pieces.

Place the pomelo, mango, herbs, spring onion, shredded pork and nuoc cham on a large platter and gently toss. Scatter with peanuts, fried shallots and sliced chilli and serve.

Bill’s tipDuring the week, when time is rushed, you can substitute poached chicken or prawns for the slow-cooked pork.

 

Food preparation by Marina Filippelli. Props styling by Rachel Jukes.

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2014 Super Rugby draw
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Rugby league convert Benji Marshall’s return to Sydney will come before the start of the Super 15 season, with the Waratahs to play a trial match against the former Wests Tigers five-eighth’s new club the Blues at Allianz Stadium on February 7.

The Waratahs, who are aiming for an ambitious top-two finish next season, will then meet Marshall’s Auckland-based side again in an Anzac Day match at Eden Park when the season proper gets underway.

The Brumbies will also have an Anzac Day clash, taking on title-holders the Chiefs at Canberra Stadium in a grand final rematch.

The 2014 Super Rugby draw, released on Tuesday, also confirms that Sunday afternoon rugby will continue in Sydney next year, with the Waratahs to host the Western Force, the Highlanders and the Lions in the popular 4.05pm time slot at Allianz Stadium.

NSW play their first Sunday afternoon game against the Force in their first match of the season before welcoming the Highlanders and Lions in May and July respectively.

The three 4.05pm fixtures are a win for the Waratahs, who have been chasing more afternoon matches to lure back families, although there is a question mark over the quality of opposition teams in each game.

The Force and Highlanders earned the wooden spoon in their respective conferences this year while next season marks the Johannesburg-based Lions’ return to the competition after a promotion-relegation battle with fellow strugglers the Southern Kings.

This year’s Sunday afternoon games against the Blues and Force drew crowds nearly half the size of the afternoon games in 2012, which were played against the Crusaders and Sharks before 30,663 and 18,830 people respectively.

The Waratahs finished ninth on the competition ladder this year and third in the Australian conference behind the Brumbies and Reds.

The competition kicks off with a South Africa-only round in the second week of February before Australia and New Zealand join in the next week.

The Waratahs play four derby matches to start the season, hosting the Reds at ANZ Stadium after their Sunday game against the Force, before heading to Canberra to play the Brumbies then home again to host the Rebels. A round-four bye breaks up the block.

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said the scheduling was built around domestic derbies as much as possible.

“They have proven to be tremendous drawcards to establish early momentum and start the competition with the tribalism and passion that Super Rugby is renowned for,” Peters said.

The Waratahs then hit the road for three weeks, playing the Sharks in Durban and the Stormers in Cape Town before stopping in Perth to play the Force a second time.

The Bulls then travel to Sydney to play NSW in the third of four weeks on the road for the three-time Super Rugby champions.

Next, the Waratahs hit the road again to play the Blues in the first Anzac Day match since 2009 before coming home for three weeks, including their second bye.

They finish the regular season away, playing the Rebels in Melbourne in round 15 and finishing with a clash against back-to-back champions the Chiefs.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Omar eliminated from The X FactorNormalfalsefalseEN-AUX-NONEX-NONE
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On Monday, Ronan Keating finally experienced the emotional rollercoaster of having a contestant in the bottom two, and this particular fun ride lost one of its passengers.Omar Dean made a tearful exit on a night that truly emphasised that the judges are the most important people on The X Factor.The night started, though, with a little number from those other people who keep hanging around.Ensemble – We Come Running, Young Blood HawkThe groups appear to have been costumed by the Glee production team with everyone in a red-and-white gym kit. Omar kicks it off and shines, as does Taylor and THIRD D3GREE, while Jai, Jiordan and Dami bizarrely are the ones that sound out of place here.It’s a bit beige all up, despite the red-and-white colour scheme, and nowhere near the standard of last night’s solos.Nat has no idea how voters managed to decide – she thought last night was one of the best shows ever and something about this sends Ronan into hysterics, which is awkward as he’s discussing the likelihood of one of his charges being eliminated tonight. Foo offers to help the other judges with their song selection, while Dannii admits she fears that Dami will be in the bottom two.

Luke then announces that One Direction will perform at the grand final and dogs around Australia hide under the bed. They possibly remain there for Nathaniel’s You, which turns out to be a largely falsetto number.

In no particular order, Luke announces Taylor, Dami, Jai and THIRD D3GREE. That means Jiordan and Omar are the bottom two.Foo is confident that the amount of time he and Jiordan have spent in the bottom two will serve them well. Ronan tries to articulate the notion that he expected this but didn’t expect Omar to be in the bottom two. The show makes the elimination entirely about Ronan and Foo, with the acts not allowed to talk. Luke only notes that Foo could be out of the competition if Jiordan is eliminated … not the fact that it would also be the end for Jiordan.James Blunt arrives to get everyone clapping (and to make his guitar look oversized in contrast with his petite frame) then we move onto the Save Me songs.Omar Dean – You Found Me, The FrayOmar looks intimidated by the occasion at first as he enters from back of stage. His voice is very quiet. He gets louder as he walks forward, but his pitch is all over the place.He seems to be very emotional and it has clearly impacted on his performance. When he completes the number with a final few flat notes, he wipes away tears.Rating: 5/10 – Pitchy and emotional, the occasion overwhelmed Omar.Jiordan – Stay, RihannaThe song choice sparks an audible reaction from the crowd when Foo announces it.Jiordan walks on stage, seems to take one last breath to psych herself up, switches it on and … wow.This is the slow, pared-back version of the song – just Jiordan and a simple piano backing – and she is pitch perfect and captivating. We see a shot of Omar staring up at the ceiling on the side of the stage. He looks broken.The crowd gets behind Jiordan as she hits the bigger notes and many can be seen standing at the end of the performance.Rating: 9/10 – Magical. That was as good if not better than her performance last night. Will it matter this time? DECISIONLuke asks for a quick decision after last week’s marathon.Ronan: “Jiordan great performance, you sang beautifully,” he says before giving Omar an outstanding character reference on the basis that the other judges may decide to send him home. No mention of Omar’s performance. He votes to send home Jiordan.Foo: Also giving Omar a character reference, Foo says he thought Omar sang well but got emotional. He says that Jiordan’s performance was his “most favourite” of hers. He votes to send home Omar.Nat: Saying this top six is the best the show has ever had, Nat speaks of Omar’s personality, confidence and honour. She recalls Jiordan’s goosebump-raising audition, claiming that we started to see it again last night and that she was taken back there tonight. She votes to send home Omar.Dannii: Loving both performances tonight, Dannii is impressed by the bond between the contestants as well as the way both songs tonight showed who each of the contestants are. “It sucks being the deciding one,” says Dannii before deciding to clearly not decide, but rather choosing to send the decision to deadlock. She votes to send home Jiordan.Luke announces that the act that received the least votes after last night was Omar.With tearful family members in the audience, an emotional Omar says that “I wake up every morning wondering if I’m dreaming”.”For all you out there, please go for your dreams, don’t ever hold back and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it because we’ve all done it. This is not the end, I promise you.””It’s tough, I’ve never been in this situation before,” says Ronan who seems genuinely emotional. “To lose someone like Omar is really tough, he’s so good at what he does and a hell of a guy.”Citing Nathaniel, who left the competition at this point last year and now has a single, as an example of what’s possible, Ronan says to Omar: “this guy is a superstar and a heart of gold, and if a label doesn’t grab him and make a record with this guy they’re crazy.”As Luke wraps up the show, Dannii is glimpsed in the background seemingly apologising to Jiordan for voting for her to cause the deadlock.

SUNDAY NIGHT RECAP

Tonight, X Factor hopes you aren’t watching the NRL grand final. In all likelihood, most of you weren’t so much deciding between Redfoo and the Roosters as hoping Ricky Martin wouldn’t drag out the pre-match entertainment long enough for you to miss the start of X Factor.

If you did miss the first few minutes, they were, as ever, dedicated to reminding you what happened last week. It’s been such a long time since then.

After the voice of X Factor tells us that the theme this week is ‘smash hits’ – which, somehow, is different from the songs that have been selected every week to date – Luke Jacobz tells us it is judges’ choice, which means the bizarre song selections are made by the other mentors.Taylor Henderson – Wake Me Up, Avicii

Dannii has chosen this song for Taylor and Ronan notes that it’s both by far the most modern song Taylor’s ever had and that it also requires him to dance.

The song opens with Taylor standing in front of a standard band set-up – keyboard, guitar, bass, drums – looking a little hipper than he has to date. He sings the first verse, then gives us a brief Jesus-on-the-cross stance before jumping over to the teen girls in the front section. After a while he starts shuffling his feet; giving us a little grapevine, a little moonwalk, a little side shuffle.

We notice the dancing – which wasn’t meant to be Taylor’s strength but is actually just right – because the singing is so professional as to be rapidly relegated to a ‘given’ aspect of the performance. Taylor doesn’t just smash every note, he modulates and emotes the song like a seasoned performer.

We feel that Taylor looks comfortable dancing, because we know it’s not his thing. We don’t think about his singing at all because it is so obviously his thing.

Rating: 9/10 – Got his groove on and totally in his groove

Taylor gets a standing ovation from the judges. Nat raves about Dannii’s song choice before she and Taylor compete to say how surprising it is that the song was chosen and worked. Nat loved it and says its the best he’s done.

Dannii feels that song suited Taylor. Foo is impressed because Taylor handled the “biggest song in the world right now” without nerves. “That wasn’t an X Factor contestant up there on stage” says Ronan, “that was Taylor Henderson,” which is his contradicting-reality way of saying it was a performance above the level of talent-show fare. Omar Dean – She Will Be Loved, Maroon 5

Foo chose the song and says he’s been waiting for some pop from Omar, before stating the very obvious by saying that not being up there with the best performances tonight could possibly mean going home. Like this is some sort of elimination-based talent show.

Omar, surrounded by panels of blinking lights, is crouched on a box with lights on the sides.

This is a pared-back version of the song, focusing on the vocals – hence no band on stage – and it works. Omar isn’t quite as polished as Taylor, but he delivers this well. It also builds to a big finish.

Rating: 7/10 – solid without shining

Omar also gets a standing ovation from the judges.

Nat says he sounds and looks like a star. Dannii gives a lengthy “ohhhhhh mmmmyyyy gooodneeeeessssss!”, comparing the original ‘looks good, sounds ok’ Omar to this polished performer. Foo feels he chose a great song for Omar, loved his performance and really loved his jacket. Ronan thought it was a great performance and a great song choice, and also gives Dannii a shout out for her song choice for Taylor.Dami Im – Clarity, Zedd ft. Foxes

Ronan has chosen Dami’s song.

In the video, Dami recalls singing for Dannii’s family last week while Dannii channels a terrible Dick Van Dyke-esque Irish (I presume) accent to thank Ronan for his song choice.

Dami is standing on a flight of white stairs under blue lights, surrounded by ten dancers posing like statues. She also has a glittery cross between a pretzel and a sailors hat perched on her head.

As ever, she is comfortable on stage and moving well among the dancers, but it’s a bit incongruous; Dami sings so well, but the song feels like it should have a more auto-tuned vocal.

The performance is good, but probably not in Dami’s wheelhouse for the simple reason that it doesn’t let her voice shine enough.

Rating: 7/10 – There’s nothing wrong and a lot right about this, but it doesn’t quite gel.

Dami earns the third standing ovation of the night. Foo is amazed by Dami every time – and particularly tonight – because she did so well with a flying saucer on her head. Ronan believed he’d set Dami a challenge tonight, but feels that she proved him wrong. He says she’s delivered the third smash hit of the night.

Nat explains that whenever Dami performs, the four judges lose control of their facial expressions. “Australia has found their next pop star and that is you,” Nat says. Dannii – in a recognisable voice this time, her own – thanks Ronan for the song, before explaining that the stairs were an issue in rehearsal but the performance and Dami were both gorgeous.Jai Waetford – Somewhere Only We Know, Keane

Nat chose Jai’s song tonight, which will have put the fear of death into both he and Ronan.

On a smoke-filled stage, Jai sits on a stool within an open cube. A large number of light bulbs dangle around him.

The song requires Jai’s voice to do all the lifting and he struggles a bit early on, sounding a bit smothered.

Once he stands up, and the backing track ramps up, Jai finds his confidence – and pitch – and it works much better, yet the sad reality is that it’s easy to imagine what Taylor would do with this, and how much better it would be.

Rating: 5/10 – It’s getting a bit one-trick pony at this stage of the comp

Again, all four judges give a standing ovation. Nat forgets to talk and claims to have been mesmerised by the performance. “You’ve got it,” says Dannii. “Very smooth, very cool,” says Foo. “You reminded me of a young Thomas Edison, that’s how timeless you are. Ronan feels Jai was exposed by the song and doesn’t understand how he pulled it off, but feels that he did.Jiordan – Royals, Lorde

Nat also chose Jiordan’s song, which Foo thinks is perfect. Meanwhile, Jiordan reminisces about last week’s Don’t Speak performance; one of her most emotional ever.

We find Jiordan sitting on the arm of a massive throne (see what they did there) wearing a backwards cap with cat ears. Another pared-back track leaves Jiordan’s voice to do the work and she has the goods.

She’s surrounded by six dancers in front of full-length mirrors and the staging manages to be both expansive and simple. It works really well.

Meanwhile, the leopard-skin sleeves combine with a sports-themed floral dress to somehow work.

Jiordan finds a great style for covering the song and inserts just enough of her own tone.

Rating: 9/10 – Best of the night

All four judges go up – which is to say that three do, before Nat remembers where she is, gets up, and tells Ronan “oh you guys suck”. Her jaw must have gone slack again.

“The tone in your voice is flawless, it’s beautiful,” says Ronan, who wonders aloud if Prince Harry is watching the show tonight. He isn’t. Nat says the song was the first she thought of when judges’ choice week was announced and it is bang in the middle of Jiordan’s comfort zone. Dannii agrees and says it is the first time she’s wanted to go to a Jiordan concert. Foo loved it too; loved her outfit, loved her tone. “I think you’ve got the coolest tone on the show,” he says.

Luke asks Prince Harry to vote, if he’s watching. He isn’t.THIRD D3GREE – Pump It, Black Eyed Peas

Foo chose the song for the group this week, which Nat thinks is a good thing as “he is the king of the party”. Radically, he has chosen a song with a male and a female vocal lead as well as a significant rap component.

The staging is lavish to the point of over the top. Jordan runs on stage and “knocks” on a door before running on, then it is, well, everywhere. There are large inflatable animals on stage. There are “partygoers” everywhere.

There are three singers not doing justice to the Black Eyed Peas.

This feels like a highly choreographed school eisteddfod number. Impressive if you assume it’s not professional.

The voices are individually OK, but not matched. The song is bigger than the group.

Rating: 5/10 – Up beat, but off track

The standing ovations officially mean nothing tonight as once more, the judges prove they have legs. Nat goes crazy. The room goes crazy, though that’s as likely due to the tempo of the track and the staging.

Dannii points to the crowd’s reaction and says Foo nailed the song choice. “I love it, I want to buy it and make it my ring tone,” she says without any hint of product placement. Foo says they did him proud given the amount of running around involved. Ronan loved their commitment, energy and vocal ability and says this is “the best we’ve ever seen” on the show. Nat says she’s been dying to give these guys the Black Eyed Peas (without offering any reason why she hasn’t) and says nobody puts THIRD D3GREE in the bottom three, because they are like Baby in Dirty Dancing – able to churn out one hit, but then sure to disappear from memory once they get a nose job.Prediction

Based on the performances tonight, it should be Jai versus THIRD D3GREE in the bottom two, with Dami as close as she has ever got, or will ever get. That said, Jai is too 14 to be rejected, so I fear Jiordan could take his place despite probably giving the best performance of the evening, with only Taylor able to make a rival case for the title.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

A bomb hit a police van protecting a polio vaccination team in north-western Pakistan on Monday, killing two people, including a policeman, and wounding 12 others, police say.
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The attack took place on the third and last day of a United Nations-backed vaccination campaign in the Peshawar suburb of Badaber, police said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic, but efforts to stamp out the crippling disease have been hit by repeated attacks on health workers.

Militant groups have rejected vaccination as a Western plot against Muslims and banned teams from giving out polio drops in some areas.

“It was an IED [improvised explosive device] blast and the target was policemen,” Najeebur Rehman, a senior police official said.

The bomb went off just as officers reached Badaber to provide security to polio teams, he said.

Nasir Durrani, the police chief for north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, confirmed the death toll.

“Most of those wounded were policemen,” Mr Durrani said.

Raheel Shah, another police official, said the health workers were not injured in the attack as they were inside a health clinic.

Authorities said bomb disposal experts defused a second device close to the site of the first blast and had halted polio vaccination in Badaber.

“A second bomb weighing five kilograms of explosive has been defused. We have suspended the campaign for time being,” Zahurul Islam, a senior government official in Peshawar said.

Mr Islam said 54 polio workers, including 24 women, were inside the clinic at the time of the blast.

Agencies

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Dr Naomi Harris. Photo: Wayne TaylorAustralian doctors and medical students are much more likely to experience psychological distress and suicidal thoughts than the general population, according to an unprecedented examination of the profession’s mental health.
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The survey of more than 14,000 doctors and medical students, conducted for depression group beyondblue, found one in five medical students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts in the past year. This compared with one in 45 people in the wider community.

The survey also found more than 40percent of medical students and more than a quarter of doctors are highly likely to have a minor psychiatric disorder.

Perceived stigma about mental illness is rife in the field, with almost half of respondents thinking doctors are less likely to appoint doctors with a history of depression or anxiety, and 40percent agreeing that many doctors think less of doctors who have experienced depression or anxiety.

The survey found medical students and young, female or overseas-trained doctors were most at risk.

Almost 6percent of doctors under the age of 30 were experiencing very high psychological distress – more than twice the rate of the general population of that age.

Of specialists, oncologists suffered the most distress, with more than a third highly likely to have a minor psychiatric disorder, while emergency doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists were most likely to drink alcohol at risky levels.

Melbourne GP Naomi Harris knows medicine’s toll first-hand. By the end of her third year studying medicine, she had lost interest in what she was doing and had difficulty sleeping. She was diagnosed with depression and admitted to a mental health facility, where she barely got out of bed for six weeks.

She says she loved studying medicine but believes the long hours and stress contributed to her becoming ill. She was placed on various medications and underwent electroconvulsive therapy.

Gradually, she recovered and with the help of a psychologist and psychiatrist has learnt to manage her depression. “I’ll be managing it for the rest of my life,” she says.

“What I’ve chosen to do is basically to get to know my depression.”

Beyondblue chief executive Kate Carnell said the findings were a wake-up call to the medical community.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →