Thursday, 3 December 2020

Ricciarelli or Italian Almond Biscuits


The Christmas Countdown is on for us. My daughter and family arrive on Monday from Cairns which is such a joyous thought, however that means lots of cooking, cleaning and organising, but as much time for blogging. I wanted to try these little Italian biscuits which my friend Christine baked during the week for our Mahjong afternoon tea, and given more time I would have baked a second batch, if only just to improve the presentation of them. Please believe me though that these biscuits taste absolutely amazing, are gluten free, and are my favourite new biscuit for Christmas. I learned a lot cooking this first batch. I will be halving the sugar back to 125 g in future as Christine did. If you are a really sweet tooth, well go for the full 250 g by all means,  but I find that with the reduced sugar I can eat two of them. Next time I will make them into attractive little rectangular parcels which is a pretty look. I also reduced my oven heat to 160 deg. C for these, however next time it will be 180 deg. as Sylvia Colloca suggests, as I like the slightly crazed and cracked look that  results. Given all of that though, these are delicious and will keep in an airtight container for a few weeks. 

If you make them and I urge you to,  I suggest you bake a double batch, as they will disappear very quickly.

 Makes 16-18

Ingredients:

300 g (3 cups) almond meal

250 g caster sugar (125 g is enough sugar)

2 egg whites

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

icing sugar, for dusting


Method:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C fan forced and conventional. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Mix the almond meal and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg whites and lemon zest and mix through to create a paste (using your hands is best here.) Pinch off pieces of paste and shape into 3 cm x 4 cm rectangles (give or take). This mixture is very pliable. I like to make mine look a little bit more interesting by placing indents of my fingers around the edges and then a slight thumbprint in the middle. Dust in the icing sugar to coat well, then place onto the lined tray, leaving room for spreading. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits look slightly marked or crazed and the bottom is firm.
  3. Cool on a rack. These biscuits keep for weeks in an airtight container, so you can double the ingredients if you like and make a bigger batch.

This is an Italian family recipe by Silvia Colloca for SBS food.

Last night Mr. HRK and I attended a Christmas concert at the Conservatorium of Music here in Mackay, which was a beautiful sparkly event and was hosted by the brilliant Professor Judith Brown who is also a remarkable pianist. Community choirs, and graduate and current students all dressed up and blinged up and performed on stage. Judith reminded everyone of the true meaning of Christmas. The Conservatorium of Music is a Faculty of the Central Queensland University. Before I retired, one of my roles at the University was as the Music Librarian for the  Con as we call it, and as part of that role I attended lots of the student concerts and got to know the talented staff and students very well. This year has of course been a difficult one for music students and performers everywhere, as there have been no concerts permitted or avenues for performance, because of the pandemic. So last night was very special for them and for us, and I realised  all over again how much I love attending concerts, and just how important music is for the soul, and yes I always have music playing when I am cooking, do you? Bring on Christmas!

Happy Christmas baking my friends,

Warm wishes

Pauline


Thursday, 19 November 2020

Pasta Liguria with pesto, new potatoes, and green beans


With this recipe we are travelling in the kitchen to Liguria, in northwestern Italy, where it's Mediterranean coastline is known as the Italian Riviera. Liguria's most famous specialities are pesto and focaccia, which can be served plain, or with tasty variations like onion, olives, sage, cheese etc. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame in his veg everyday cookbook, says that this is a traditional pasta dish from Liguria using a delicious homemade pesto. Making your own pesto takes this dish to a whole new level. I am still to find a bought one that I like, but they must be available somewhere I suppose. 

For this recipe I used Hugh's recipe for pesto and combined basil and parsley, however just basil or just parsley would be fine. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a lot of fresh coriander, use that for an equally delicious pesto. This recipe can be prepared in two stages which saves a lot of time at the time of cooking. I made the pesto a few days ago and kept it in the refrigerator, and if you missed the recipe on my In My Kitchen November post here it is. If the pesto is already made, this recipe is cooked up in a jiffy. Another good thing is that this is a one pot dish after the pesto is made. I should also add that I only used the bowtie pasta for this recipe because that is what I had in the pantry. It's a fun pasta to use though.

It also makes a delicious meat free Monday dish that the whole family will love.

Pesto recipe:


Basil Pesto ingredients:

50 g pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted (I used pine nuts this time)
A large bunch of basil (about 30 g), leaves only
1 large bunch of parsley (about 30 g), leaves only
A few mint leaves (optional)
1 garlic clove, chopped
50 g Parmesan, hard goats cheese, or other well flavoured hard cheese, finely grated
 (I use parmesan)
 Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
100-150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve:

Extra virgin olive oil, to trickle over the top (optional)

Method:

Put the toasted pine nuts into the food processor along with the herbs, garlic, grated cheese and lemon zest. Blitz to a paste, then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until you have a thick, sloppy puree. Scrape the pesto into a bowl and season with salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Sometimes I make a  pasta dish using this pesto with new potatoes, and green beans. Delicious!

Lets cook some Pasta. 

Serves 4 generously

Pasta with Pesto, New Potatoes and Green beans Ingredients:

300g new potatoes, I used "baby spud lite" potatoes from Woolworths (no promo intended)

300g pasta, such as farfalle (bowtie shape) or any pasta shape,  or penne, trofie, orecchiette 

200g green or French beans

50g stoned green olives, roughly sliced or chopped

Salt

Method:

Put a very large pan of well salted water onto the boil. Salting the water heavily (2 tablespoons), is believed to help maintain the bright colour of the beans, and keep the potatoes firm. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into thick matchsticks (like thin chips).

Add the potatoes and pasta to the pan and cook until the pasta is al dente - Probably 10-12 minutes. This should be the right amount of time for the potatoes as well, however I wasn't quite sure and so I added the pasta, cooked it for 2 minutes, then added the potatoes, cooked it all for 5 minutes and then added the green beans for 4 minutes. Perfect timing! The most important thing here is to keep the integrity of the potatoes so that they don't cook too long and break up. If the pasta is the type that cooks very quickly, put the potatoes in a few minutes before you add the pasta. 

Carefully drain off the pasta and vegetables, and let them steam off for a minute or two, then add the pesto and mix thoroughly but gently. Check to see if more salt or pepper is needed, I added a good grinding of pepper.

(If you are worried about the timing though, cook each element separately in the same pot of boiling water.  First the potatoes, when almost done take them out, then the green beans, take them out when almost done, keep the water going and add the pasta until done. Then gently mix everything together.)

Divide between 4 serving bowls, and scatter over the green olives. Grate some parmesan cheese over each bowl and add  an extra trickle of olive oil if you like. Serve with an extra bowl of grated cheese on the table. Mr. HRK and I are having leftovers for lunch today. Yum, can't wait.

I really hope you try this recipe as it is absolutely delicious and so simple to make.

As always your comments will make my day, so please let me know what you think in the comments box.

Happy eating,

 Pauline



Friday, 13 November 2020

In My kitchen, November 2020

Beautiful Jacaranda trees growing in our street

It's a lovely time of year with the Jacaranda trees in flower and my Dancing Lady orchids (oncidiums) producing beautiful golden sprays of colour this year. I feel as if I have lost a week though, as I started this post a week ago and then we received news that our brother-in-law was in intensive care in Rockhampton which is in Central Queensland, following surgery. Jim is blind and has been for over 20years, he is incredibly independent though. But his blindness adds extra complications to any health issues. Knowing that Jim's children and family in NSW wouldn't be able to visit him because of Covid restrictions and other family couldn't get there until Monday we drove down, after all Mackay is only 350 kms up the road from Rky. Rockhampton is my hometown, so it is always nice to go back,  perhaps under better circumstances though. We drove home yesterday after 6 days of visiting the hospital, and Jim seems to be doing quite well in rehab at the Mater Hospital now so I'm so pleased we could be there for him. The staff at the Rockhampton Base Hospital provided excellent care for him. 

Dancing Lady orchids


A highlight of the trip though was that Mr. HRK and I found a grove of Common mango trees where we took our dog Locky for a walk each day, still green but ready for picking, and perfect for making mango chutney. So my handyman husband repaired Jim's specially designed mango picker,  and on Wednesday we picked two bags of mangoes. We needed enough mangoes for 2 kilos of mango flesh. Jim also has a thriving Bowen Mango tree in his backyard, so we picked all of those for him and brought back just a dozen for ourselves. Common mangoes don't have the lovely pink blush around the stalk that the Bowen mangoes have, as they ripen then turn yellow.

A bowl of Green Common Mangoes ready for cooking.

It's interesting though that the mangoes in Mackay are still not ready for harvesting despite being further North, Rky has surprisingly had more rain than us. So today in my kitchen can you guess what I've been doing all morning, yes my friends, making mango chutney as some of the mangoes have started to ripen already with the warmer weather around. The mangoes need to be very green and hard for making chutney or the flesh will just break down too easily in the chutney. The result, 13 jars of spicy and sweet mango chutney which I am very pleased with. Mr. HRK peeled them while I sliced them up, and then I cooked up the mixture in a large pot, outside in our patio BBQ area on the gas burner, our outdoor kitchen. It took 45 minutes. So it's Mango Madness here in the North, or anywhere where there are mangoes growing, heralding the beginning of the Christmas preparations. Traditionally mango chutney is eaten with ham on Christmas. Day. However we eat it all year round. 
Click here for my Mango Chutney recipe on a previous post.






All the ingredients are in the pot, ready for cooking



My latest batch of mango chutney still to be labelled and stored.

Just before we left for Rockhampton, I made this delicious Chicken, Tomato and Basil traybake using up some fresh tomatoes given to me by my wonderful friend Irena. It was delicious.  I'll put up the recipe one day soon. 






My sweet Italian basil is growing beautifully this year, so I made some pesto from it. It was so delicious, the best pesto I have ever made, mainly because I think the basil was so fresh. The pesto is all gone, so I need to make some more. However here is the recipe I used from River Cottage Veg everyday, written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. A great recipe book and never far from my kitchen.





Hey presto we have delicious basil pesto


Basil Pesto ingredients:

50 g pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted (I used pine nuts this time)
A large bunch of basil (about 30 g), leaves only
1 large bunch of parsley (about 30 g), leaves only
A few mint leaves (optional)
1 garlic clove, chopped
50 g Parmesan, hard goats cheese, or other well flavoured hard cheese, finely grated
 (I use parmesan)
 Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
100-150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve:

Extra virgin olive oil, to trickle over the top (optional)

Method:

Put the toasted pine nuts into the food processor along with the herbs, garlic, grated cheese and lemon zest. Blitz to a paste, then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until you have a thick, sloppy puree. Scrape the pesto into a bowl and season with salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Sometimes I make a  pasta dish using this pesto with new potatoes, and green beans. Delicious!

Below is my Brassia Rex orchid in flower at this time of year. It's quite an un usual flower.


Nasturtiums from a friend make a lovely posy in a vase in the kitchen. This is the last of them now unfortunately that the Summer heat takes it's toll on some garden plants.


 I started sewing a couple of weeks ago, and made this book bag for Hugo our grandson, and sent it in a Christmas parcel over to the Falkland Islands with a book inside of course. I really enjoy sewing once I get started. This is an easy project and very useful. I'll be making some more for the children in the future.


I've written this post as part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Sherrys Pickings. It is worthwhile dropping over to her posts if you haven't already

We are so fortunate here in Queensland that life continues pretty much as normal now, however we are aware that the the Covid pandemic situation overseas is still very concerning. You are all in our thoughts and prayers and one of the biggest global challenges now is to produce and distribute a  reliable vaccine that immunises populations across the world against this dreadful virus.

That's all folks, have a safe weekend. My next project today, soaking the fruit and nuts for this years Christmas cake.

Warm wishes,

Pauline.


Sunday, 1 November 2020

Gingered Garlic Pork with Stir Fried Vegetables


This is the perfect meal on a hot and sticky day like we are experiencing today, it's light and tasty. I love the way we Aussies describe a day like today, it's a Stinker, or it's Muggy and we are always hoping for rain or a storm. Luckily here in North Queensland, so far we haven't had any of the awful hailstorms that have started in southern Queensland. Some poor people's homes have been wrecked by huge hailstones.  We haven't had any of the rain either unfortunately, no doubt though it will come eventually.  My Dove orchids are starting to flower, and they are often pretty accurate that it will rain.

It's the annual and famous Melbourne Cup horse race tomorrow here in Australia, on the 3rd November, always on a Tuesday. It will be a very different type of Melbourne Cup to what we are used to watching, no fashions in the field, in fact no-one on the field, except the horses and their jockeys, perhaps a trainer or two as well.  The yellow roses around the track are looking as beautiful as ever, and will be better than ever due to the lack of people around in the lead up to the race. I heard this morning that the roses are going to be donated to health workers in Melbourne, who have done such an amazing job during this corona virus pandemic. Besides doing the job they are trained for, there is a lot of extra stress that pervades hospitals during a pandemic like this. I might not have any yellow roses, symbolic of the Melbourne Cup, but I do have some lovely yellow gerberas flowering. The original plants were my Mothers, and have been broken up many times over the years, so this gerbera is an oldie and a goodie, before all of the new varieties appeared in nurseries.



Anyway onto cooking something  spicy and sweet. Let's get some pork on our forks.

Ingredients:

Serves 4, however just halve the ingredients if you are cooking for two or even one. Leftovers are delicious.

2 tablespoons grated ginger

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

 4 lean pork fillets (approx. 125g each.)

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 medium  onions

1 large carrot, finely sliced like matchsticks

2 zucchinis, sliced

1 red capsicum

4 teaspoons cornflour

300g snow peas

200g bean sprouts

Method:

Combine the first four ingredients, (ginger, garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce),  in a bowl, mix to combine, and add the pork fillets to marinade in the refrigerator overnight.

On the day of cooking, prepare and cut up the vegetables ready for the stir fry. Once that is done, let the oven do most of the work with the pork.

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C /Gas Mark 4. 

Drain the pork, and reserve the marinade. Cook it in an oven proof frypan if you have one, otherwise just in a non-stick pan until browned all over. Either transfer the pork to an ovenproof dish and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or transfer the oven proof frying pan to the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Less washing up. Just be very careful of the hot handle on your frypan when you take it out of the oven.

These pork fillets are browning off beautifully in the pan.

Remove and slice the pork diagonally.

Heat the oil in a wok, and add all of your vegetables, except for the snow peas and the bean sprouts. Stir fry them over a high heat until tender. Blend the cornflour with a little water and add to the reserved marinade and add to the vegetables in the wok. Add the snow peas and the bean sprouts, and stir lightly until the sauce boils and thickens.

Serve the vegetables with the pork and some brown or white rice. Yum!

This is the raw pork fillet I bought, so I just chopped it into four pieces. They come in a variety of weights.


Speaking of a stinker of a day in the heat, have you ever seen one of these? It is a kind of fly catcher, is a fungi, and it stinks, let's not mince words. It is a member of the Stinkhorn fungi, and it appears in many shapes and sizes. 


I noticed it first thing this morning, when I walked past the front garden with Locky after our early morning walk, so it was about 6.30 am. It was nice and fresh then, with flies crawling all over it, like bees to the honeypot.  I didn't get close enough to smell it, but apparently they do smell and we have had them in our garden before. The shape is well rather rude really isn't it? Ours looked phallic and draped in a lacy skirt. I was amazed by its perfect formation. No need to go into more specifics, I'm sure you can see what I mean.  Wood chip and organic matter provide the ideal habitat for Stinkhorn Fungi, so mulched gardens are likely to support the occasional outbreak of these strange but fascinating growths. So as we are all mulching our gardens to preserve the moisture throughout the Summer, the Stinkhorn Fungi are revelling in the perfect environment. However they are also helping to break down the organic matter for the benefit of the surrounding plants. As the sun comes out they start to dry up and lose their  freshness. I can't wait until tomorrow morning to see if it has a revival. If you are really interested, the Stinkhorn Fungi is part of the Clathraceae family. I just know you will be checking your gardens tomorrow morning for these impressive works of garden art.

I had intended to put up another meat free Monday recipe today, but this delicious pork was last nights dinner recipe, so the meat free Monday dish will be on the menu tonight, hopefully.

Just a quick comment for my blogger friends. I haven't been able to download photos from the computer photo files to my post today, so I downloaded them from Google photos where I edit them. I'll see how that goes, hope they don't disappear. 

Stay safe and thanks for dropping by, 

Pauline
















Thursday, 29 October 2020

Spanish Vegetable Stew with Chorizo


I had an abundance of vegetables in my refrigerator crisper needing to be used during the week, and rather than do a traybake of them, or donate them eventually to the compost bin, I decided to make a rich vegetable stew with a Spanish theme and Mediterranean flavours. By adding a  spicy, paprika enriched chorizo the vegetables were transformed into a delicious dish reminding me of our holidays in Spain, 5 years ago.  Once again, I feel very fortunate that we travelled there when we did. Strangely though amongst this  medley of vegetables there was no eggplant, so I used up the zucchini instead, but eggplant would also be perfect. We eat fresh vegetables and salad every day, however sometimes I still manage to accumulate them, because I can't resist them when they are selling for a good price or look especially fresh and delicious at the market. 

I almost feel guilty putting up a recipe like this one on my blog as it is so easy, but my friends it is so tasty and authentically Spanish as well. Spanish food isn't complicated food, it's pretty simple really, with lots of fresh ingredients and sometimes incorporating bottled pimentos, olives and peppers etc for authentic flavouring. Whilst writing this up, it inspired me to take a look at some of our old photos of when we were driving around Spain and the cooking class in San Sebastian that Shannon and I went to. It was truly the best experience and it was just us in the class. So much food and wine, because after a cooking class, you get to eat the results. Amazing! As this is mainly a food blog after all, I thought you might enjoy a few of the Spanish photos we took, as we can't travel to Spain anytime soon. First the recipe, and then the photos.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 onion, diced

1 bunch fresh asparagus (in season right now)

340g zucchini or eggplant or both, diced

120 g large mushrooms, sliced

1/2 red capsicum

1 tsp. mixed herbs, or combination of fresh if you have them

100g chorizo, diced

3 garlic cloves. sliced

400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 handfuls diced pumpkin (I used Kent, but you can use butternut if you wish) or leave it out

Salt and ground Pepper for extra seasoning


Method:

  1. Saute the onion in the olive oil in a casserole dish over a medium-low heat until softened and sweetened for 4-5 minutes, then add the zucchini or eggplant, capsicum, mushrooms, herbs and chorizo.
  2. Cook this mixture for 5 minutes, and as it starts to brown, stirring regularly, and add the garlic at almost the end of the cooking time.
  3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, asparagus, and the pumpkin and half a cup of water, just enough to loosen up the mixture, and then simmer for about 40 minutes, with the lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking, until all of the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  4. Have a taste to check if it needs any extra seasoning, I added a little extra salt and ground black pepper.
  5. Serve it with brown rice or quinoa, and some steamed greens and a sprinkling of parsley to garnish.


Now for my Spanish photos:-
The Spanish cooking class kitchen in San Sebastian and one of our chefs. She was delightful.


Here's Shannon hard at work in the kitchen with our other chef. The fresh white asparagus was delightful, and can you spot the chorizo?


Of course every Spanish market has beautiful flowers, and San Sebastian was no exception.


Oh to have fresh artichokes (alcachofa) like these ones below.


Lots of fresh produce to choose from at the San Sebastian market which we shopped at for our cooking class. Yes there were tubs of wattle, that was a surprise.


There are always lots of different varieties of olives, and legumes to buy for every Spanish dish and their delicious tapas.


The salads in Spain were simple and delicious. We drove around all of Spain, and this was the most common salad we encountered at most cafes and roadside restaurants. When we are travelling, fresh salad and vegetables are always welcome and not always easy to come by, but they are in Spain.. They love their boiled eggs, iceberg lettuce and tinned fish. Also note the green olives, the grated carrot, tomato, corn and radish. Just like what we eat at home during the Australian Summer, don't you think?


If you would like a Spanish dessert to finish your meal with a Spanish theme, I wrote a little more about our Spanish adventures when I baked the Basque Burnt Cheesecake. Here is the cheesecake recipe.

Warmest wishes from sunny North Queensland.


Pauline

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Thai Style Vegetable Green Curry, a Meat Free Monday recipe

I often cook a green chicken curry with some vegetables included especially if I have eggplant needing to be used, but this time, using the Five Tastes Green Curry Paste in a vegetarian version I was so thrilled with the amazing flavour of this curry, minus the chicken. Thai food is a very popular cuisine in Australia, partly due to our proximity to South East Asia, our climate, and the ease with which we can grow many fresh Asian herbs and vegetables. It just tastes so very good. There are probably as many Thai restaurants as Chinese ones in Australia now, well where I live there are anyhow. Back in the day before Covid, when restaurants were operating at full capacity, dining out at a Thai Restaurant was one of our favourite options. So dear reader, do you prefer Chinese, Thai or Indian food? I don't remember Thai food being as popular in the United Kingdom or Europe when we were travelling, but Indian food certainly was. Let's dine vicariously in Thailand. 

 Meat Free Monday seems to be catching on as a lifestyle choice now, for the future of the planet and our health, and we certainly don't  miss eating meat a couple of nights a week. Meat Free Mondays was officially launched in Australia back in 2012, by Chris Riedy, Professor of Sustainability Governance at the Institute of Sustainable Futures, UTS (University of Technology, Sydney), or so I just read. For those of us who want to make a difference but who aren't vegetarians, this seems like a good compromise There are all kinds of food traditions in families these days, which gives the kids and the parents something to look forward to I guess. How about Meat Free Monday, Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday or Wacky Wednesday (fun stuff for the kids),  Pizza Thursday, Pie Day Friday (used to be Fish and Chips), and anything goes on the weekend using up leftovers, although I still love the idea of the Sunday roast. Sunday night used to be Scotch pancakes when I was living at home. What a treat.

If you decide to try this recipe and I really hope you do, I urge you not to leave out the kaffir lime leaves, the lime juice, the fish sauce, or the basil leaves, they pack a punch of flavour.  I am lucky to be able to grow a kaffir lime tree here, I use my kaffir lime leaves so often, it's worthwhile having a tree just for those fragrant leaves. The sweet basil is growing beautifully now that it is warming up as well.

Do you try to eat a meat free meal at least once a week? I might just make this one again this Monday, we love it so much and it's so easy to prepare. Make the sauce ahead of time, and add the veg and reheat when you are ready to eat.

Let's Cook:

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

200g pumpkin, peeled ( used Jap pumpkin but butternut would be fine)

1 zucchini

1/2 small cauliflower

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 eshallots, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons Thai green curry paste ( I prefer the Five Tastes brand)

400 ml coconut milk

1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded, with extra to garnish

200g green beans, trimmed

Juice of 1 lime

Thai fish sauce

Coriander leaves and Thai basil leaves, to garnish


Here I go again. I've already typed this up once, but obviously the automatic save isn't working, grrr!

Method:

  • Cut eggplant, pumpkin and zucchini into 2cm pieces.
  • Separate cauliflower florets into small pieces
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat (I use a scanpan).
  • Add eschallots and cook for about 7-9 minutes, or until soft.
  • Add curry paste and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes
  • Pour in coconut milk and vegetable stock
  • Add kaffir lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add pumpkin and eggplant, cover and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes
  • Add beans, zucchini and cauliflower, cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • When vegetables are tender, add lime juice and a dash of fish sauce
  • Season to taste and sprinkle with coriander and Thai basil.
Serve with steamed rice. I like it with some of my Sweet Chilli Jam as well. This recipe is based on the David Herbert suite of recipes published in the Weekend Australian recently. I try to see what he's up to.

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is on. This is our checklist of birds today, although we submitted two bird counts. Didn't get them all the first time.


Tomorrow is the last day of the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Mr. HRK and I have been enjoying devoting 20 minutes late each afternoon for the the past week recording the birds visiting our backyard. He makes an excellent bird spotter whilst I enter the data on the app., although I do spot some as well. Today he saw 6 Yellow-bill spoonbills flying over, I've never seen them before. So far this time, 4,110,699 birds have been counted, from 129,473 submitted checklists, a great effort for the twitchers. 

Are you doing the bird count as well? It's fun isn't it and it's free.
 
Warm wishes,

Pauline

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Chicken and Artichokes


It's easy to treat yourself to a fast, tasty and nutritious meal at the end of a busy day from food in your pantry. This is a quick post, to share with you a deceptively easy and delicious midweek meal. At the end of a busy day, if you have some left over chicken in the frig, a bottle of  preserved artichokes in your pantry, some bulgur wheat, and some white wine for the dish and the cook, voila you have the makings of a tasty and nutritious meal only 45 minutes max away.  

Even retirees have busy weeks, believe it or not,  and this is one of them for us, with a variety of appointments seeming to occur this week alongside our regular weekly commitments. Mr. HRK and I have also been writing the 14th post on my blog about my Great Great Grandfather's Artistic Adventures in Glasgow, Scotland. We have really enjoyed it but it takes a lot of time, and there is still a lot of work to do before it reaches the publishing stage if we take it to that level.

One afternoon, I was prepping the ingredients for this dish, when Mr. HRK came into the kitchen and asked what we were having. I knew he had no expectations and would probably have been happy with a poached egg on toast given the busy day, so the expression on his face when I told him we were having Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Chicken and Artichokes was quite priceless , and he charmingly said "How many men would be having a meal like that tonight? I am so lucky." Bless his heart. Yes the name of this dish does sound quite impressive, but it is so easy, just don't tell anyone. It is also a versatile dish. Haloumi cheese can be substituted for the chicken, another pickled vegetable such as eggplant or fennel could be substituted for the artichoke, and well  I suppose you could use arborio rice, but I like the taste and texture of bulgur and it is certainly a nice change from rice. You could also add some dry white wine to replace half the liquid, to really make it special.

 I try to use bulgur or buckwheat in preference to rice when I can as it contains more than twice the fibre and four times as much folate to keep up our energy levels. We have been bombarded with information recently about the value of ancient grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and bulgar, but bulgar is my favourite and easier to cook with. When we travelled through Chile and Peru in March 2020, quinoa was used in so many foods, along with corn, but I still prefer bulgur.

Ingredients:

1 onion

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, diced or squeezed

60g bulgur wheat

1/2-1 red fresh chilli or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 bay leaf

1 red capsicum, deseeded and sliced

300ml chicken or vegetable stock

140 g cooked leftover chicken, chopped (about 1 medium chicken breast) or 60 g fried sliced haloumi

2 heaped tablespoons artichokes (from a jar or tin)

Large handful of coriander or parsley, roughly chopped

Method:

Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil in a saucepan. Meanwhile Rinse the bulgur wheat. 

Add the bulgur wheat, chilli, bay leaf and capsicum and cover with the stock. Put the lid on and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur wheat is al dente and ready to eat. It pays to check this after 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes as you may need to add extra stock if it is looking dry. Mine didn't.


Then stir the chicken into the pan, along with the artichokes, for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.


Season and stir in half the coriander or parsley, reserving the rest for a garnish.

60g fried sliced Haloumi works really well with this dish instead of chicken if you prefer a meat free dish. 

Here are some other bulgur recipes you might like to try: 

Bulgur Wheat with Tomato Eggplant and Lemon Yoghurt

A very healthy Cypriot Grain Salad

Lentil and Bulgur Salad

This recipe is based on one published by Dr. Michael Mosley, so be assured it is healthy and great for your gut.

Best wishes,

Pauline