Thursday, 17 May 2018

Sweet Chilli Jam

I returned home from our 3 month trip to Tasmania to an abundant crop of mild red chillies growing on some self propagated Chilli bushes and also 3 mature Birds Eye chilli bushes had self seeded and grown in that time, probably courtesy of the birds dropping the seeds. I am amazed how some birds just love the hottest birds eye chillies. No doubt they are attracted by the red colour and the small edible size, I wonder if they regret this choice later.

After a week, Mr. HRK was getting a bit thingy about all of the chillies on the bushes and I realised that a couple of the bushes really needed to be removed. So Waste Not Want Not, I made this Sweet Chilli Jam, which I have been wanting to do for ages.

This recipe is basically taken from the iconic Down to Earth blog by Rhonda Hetzel. I have changed the quantities and ingredients to suit the quantities I had to use. Just halve the quantities for a smaller batch.

Ingredients and equipment: 
(A large batch)

30 medium mild red chillies (or any combination of other mild chillies you might have),including seeds
8 small Birds Eye chillies (very hot), including seeds
2 red capsicums
4 large brown onions
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 cups of white sugar
1 cup of white cooking vinegar
1 cup water
juice of 2 lemons or limes
2 teaspoons fish sauce
Pair of plastic gloves for hand protection
7-8 medium jam jars for this recipe


Wash the chillies and dry them.
Have your food processor ready to use on your kitchen bench.
(At this stage I generally have my small jam bottles on a short cycle in the dishwasher so that they will be sterilised and nice and hot when the jam is ready and I can just ladle in the hot, sweet and spicy finished jam. Or you may prefer to have them washed in soapy water, and ready to sterilise in a warm oven.)

I took all of the chillies, capsicums, and onions, 2 cutting boards and a couple of bowls outside onto my patio, made a cup of tea, and then sat down in a comfortable chair at our outside table and started chopping, enjoying the beautiful day outside.

Top and tail the chillies, and don't bother removing the seeds, except in the capsicums.
I chopped them all up roughly outside.

Place the chopped chillies, onions and garlic in your food processor and blitz until they are chopped into small pieces. Because I made a double batch, I needed to do this in two stages which worked well.

Add the contents of your food processor to a large saucepan, add the sugar and other liquid ingredients.

Bring the jam slowly to the boil, which will dissolve the sugar. This is where you test the taste to check if it is too hot or not sweet enough. Very carefully take out a teaspoon of the jam, taste it, being careful not to burn your mouth, and if it is too hot and spicy, add another chopped capsicum. Or if it's not spicy enough for you, add another hot chilli. I am careful not to make mine too chilli hot now, as some of it will be gifts for friends, and some of them can't tolerate hot chilli.

Let the jam cook on a rolling boil for 45 minutes. To quote Rhonda from Down to Earth, "a rolling boil is when the jam boils and even when you put a spoon in it to stir it, it continues boiling, but won't boil over". Very important.

After 45 minutes, the jam should be the right consistency.

Ladle it into the hot jars, put the lids on straight away and tighten them.

Leave them out on the kitchen bench to completely cool, label, and then store them in your pantry. The vinegar and sugar will act as very efficient preservatives. The jam should last for about 6 months, and I generally give about half of it away and make some more.

I always place a bottle in my frig straight away to use, as I will have already tasted it.

I generally hear quite a few of the jar lids popping over the next few hours, ensuing the jars are well sealed.

This batch was just how we like it, suitable to eat as a condiment at anytime of day, with the taste of chilli but not too much heat. Add more Bird's Eye chillies if you like it really hot.

It's hard to believe it's Friday again already. I hope you have all had a good week,  and have some nice plans for the weekend. I hope to get out and do some walking, the  hardest part is just walking out the door, don't you think?

Best wishes


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Apple and Sour Cream Cake Slice

I had a busy day planned when our special friends, Julie and Dave were coming for the weekend, and I needed a slice on the table for morning tea. I've been wanting to make this one ever since Mr. HRK's sister Suzanne, who lives in Toowoomba baked it for afternoon tea for us. We stayed for a couple of nights with Sue on our way through at the beginning of our long road trip, only a few months ago. It was so delicious, not overly sweet, and very much appreciated after a long drive that day, so I wrote down the recipe for when we came home. I'll admit that I had to call Sue when I decided to make it to clarify a few finer details, and voila, here it is.

I don't take many shortcuts with cooking now, however using a bought cake mix for the biscuit base does the trick here. Sue used a gluten free one for hers which made no difference to the result. I was quite intrigued by this recipe because of the stages involved.

When Julie and Dave arrived we ate it warm from the oven after leaving it to sit for 15 minutes for the topping to firm up, so it was slightly messier to slice, which doesn't matter at all. It still tasted great.  However the following day after sitting in the frig overnight, the biscuit base had stayed crisp, and it was very easy to slice. Mr. HRK loves it.

This could also be eaten as an easy and warm dessert for the family.

Just and have faith, and follow this recipe and I assure you this will work.

Let's Cook:

Turn on your oven to moderate or 180 deg.

Base Ingredients:

1 packet vanilla cake mix (gluten free if necessary) I used a White Wings packet mix..
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup or 4 tablespoons melted butter

Topping Ingredients:

400-440 g tub sour cream depending on brand
425g tin pie apple


Mix together the ingredients for the base in a bowl.
Spread into a well greased rectangular non-stick slice tin.
Bake for 20 minutes in a moderate oven.

Remove tray from the oven and leave the oven turned on.
Mix the sour cream with the pie apple in another bowl, and spread onto the biscuit base.

Sprinkle with nutmeg, and some flaked almonds if you like however this isn't essential.

Bake for another 20 minutes at 180 deg. C or in a moderate oven.

You know, whilst I try to cook mostly from scratch, I realise it just isn't feasible for a lot of people. I really started thinking seriously about this when we were travelling and staying with our family and friends along the way. How do families with both adults or parents working manage to get a good meal on the table each night, or produce something special on the weekend without resorting to taking short cuts occasionally? I know I did when I was working. I think that including fast foods too much in our diet  is where the real danger lies to our health. So I am pursuing inventive and delicious ways of including fruit and vegetables into our diets and those of our children and grandchildren, and perhaps some partners and husbands LOL) Watch this space. Any ideas?

I hope you can try this slice and I would love to hear from you as to how it goes.

Hoping you all have a fabulous week.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Our 3 month camping trip to Tasmania from Northern Queensland

Mexican Mince with Avocado and Coriander was one of the easy and delicious meals I cooked during our road trip.

Go straight to recipe here.

Hello dear readers, and it's great to be home after a 3 month road trip, although it still seems strange not to be "on the road again" each or every second day. It is also nice to be back in our own bed and my own kitchen.

I thought I would do a little review of some of the things we learnt along the way and some tips for next time, if you are interested in taking such a trip. We covered a lot of kilometres and visited a lot of towns and I'm also testing myself to see how many names I can recall, without resorting to looking at the map. I won't be mentioning everywhere we visited though in this small space:)

We left home at the end of January, with our Toyota Fortuna packed to the hilt, and a pod on the top carrying various camping gear items. We are now home, whereas many southerners are only just beginning their trip North to avoid the southern cold weather. Mother's Day to Father's Day seems to be the time frame for southern travellers to travel to North Queensland and over to the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and through the Red Centre.


Our main accommodation  as our primary place of residence was our tent, a Black Wolf 240, 2.4 metres square. Plenty of room for us and light to carry and assemble. I can hear you all gasping from here,  but Mr. HRK is passionate about camping and it is good fun. We began purchasing all of our equipment online from Snowys Outdoor camping shop in Adelaide a couple of years ago, and from whom we have received excellent service. We also visited them when we were in Adelaide on this trip and topped up on a few items and it was great to visit the store that we had only previously visited online. They were all very friendly and helpful.

Essential to us at our age is a good nights sleep and to own very comfortable bedding, and many options are also available from Snowys. However we never camped for more than a week at a time without then staying in a Holiday Park cabin for a couple of nights, or with relatives and good friends or very occasionally in a motel.

The Bowra Hotel

We had a great pub meal here at the Bowra Hotel in early February when we stayed at Congarinni North near Macksville in NSW, with my cousin Myles and his lovely wife Katie and their beautiful family. We wouldn't have thought to visit this area if Myles hadn't invited us to stay, and it is a beautiful part of the world, with lots of  great beaches and surf.

Sometimes the weather forced alternative accommodation as well. A lot of tourists (primarily grey nomads) travel in caravans, mobile homes or camper trailers and mostly source free camps using wikicamps by the road along the way. No-one travelling in vans likes paying for accommodation. There are many free campsites along the road.  However camping in a tent means that in some Holiday Parks we could camp on the best sites available overlooking the ocean and beautiful scenery, which caravans couldn't access.
Camping at Penguin on the North West Coast of Tasmania overlooking the beautiful ocean.
Our simple campsite at Penguin

The most we paid for a tent site on our travels was $30.00 a night and the least was $5.00, at the Mt. Pleasant Showgrounds in the Barossa in South Australia.


It helps to have a budget in mind, particularly when travelling for 3 months.  We aimed at budgeting an average of $140 a day, and did pretty well with mixing up accommodation, cooking most of our own food and staying away from the cities whenever possible. Finding parking for a 4 wheel drive with a pod on top in the large cities, proved to be almost impossible and also expensive.

 Fuel was the biggest expense for us on our trip. Our Toyota 4 wheel drive runs on diesel, which cost an average of $65 per day. It pays in the outback to keep the fuel tank as full as possible just in case the next service station has shut down or is just closed for the day, which does happen. We weren't towing a caravan or a camper trailer, although we did have a pod on top of the car, so our fuel consumption was very good compared to what some rigs on the highway must be paying for fuel. Hence the need probably for caravanners to find as many free camps as possible.

Our route:

 Our trip was a little longer than I thought it would be. We drove through the scenic Yarra Valley to Melbourne, caught the ferry to Devonport and then drove to Avoca to stay with friends, Lynne and Rob for a couple of nights with whom we sampled some very nice Tasmanian wines and foods in the area.

On board the Spirit of Tasmania in Melbourne and setting sail for Tasmania, with the Queen Mary 2 in port as well.
 Gala, Devils Corner and Stoney Vineyard/Domaine A, come to mind as vineyards we visited. There were more ha,ha. However Tasmanian wine is expensive to buy from the cellar door and better deals can be found at Dan Murphy outlets. Wine tasting though is a lot of fun, as long as we're not driving. After three wonderful weeks in Tasmania, we sailed back to Melbourne and stayed at the Coburg Holiday Park for a couple of nights in a cabin, saw the amazing Carole King story "Beautiful", at Her Majesty's Theatre, and then drove to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road, camping at Apollo Bay. We flew to Perth and drove to Albany for Easter with Matthew, Myrtille and little Hugo and hired a cabin there. What a lovely place, and the Military Museum was a highlight to visit. Then we flew back to Adelaide, collected the car, and stayed with friends for a couple of nights. A highlight of that time being a train trip into the Melbourne markets and a delicious Japanese Bento box for lunch.

We camped in the Barossa for a couple of nights at the Showgrounds, under cover in the open shearing shed, as storms were brewing and the tent withstood 70 km winds. It was wild weather.

Our tent under cover and firmly secured to withstand the wild storm

Our friends, Joanne and Allan were camped there in their mobile home as well. If they hadn't been there we would have stayed in a motel that night because of the weather. The manager of the Park was so accommodating and couldn't do enough for us. I wasn't sorry to leave there though as the weather was cold, wet, windy and miserable.  However we survived and our tent with awnings securely fastened remained in the ground. Lots of delicious curries and local red wines with friends on the first night warmed us up nicely.

We drove through the Red Centre via underground and opal studded Coober Pedy to Uluru and the Olgas. Truly majestic country. The real outback camping started from here. Our destination was Cairns and the drive from Hughenden and along the Kennedy Development Road was highlighted by a camp overnight at Porcupine Gorge. The Gorge is beautiful, although the 1.2 km steep uphill walk back to the top to the campsite nearly killed me. A few days in Cairns with our daughter and her partner in their home, and then another enjoyable camping trip with them to Davies Creek National Park near Mareeba, on the Atherton Tablelands inland from Cairns, and then home to Mackay.

Davies Creek National Park falls

Cooking and Meals

Mexican Mince
This is a delicious mid-week meal for the whole family and so easy to make if you are camping or travelling with access to a stove and a fry pan.

Serves 4


2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 onions, finely chopped
500g beef mince
1 green capsicum, diced
4 rashes bacon, finely chopped
1 can of tomato soup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 cup macaroni or elbow pasta
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
finely chopped coriander
1 chopped ripe avocado

Let's cook:

Gently fry the onions in olive oil until transparent. Add the beef mince, white pepper and bacon and cook until mince is browned.

Meanwhile, boil the macaroni in a separate saucepan until cooked.

Add the celery, garlic, oregano, and capsicum to the beef sauce and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the tomato soup and water and simmer until mixture thickens and vegetables are cooked.

Add the macaroni to the beef mixture and mix well.

Serve with chopped avocado and coriander as a garnish.

I have also served this with some corn chips on the side. It's a crowd pleaser.

Our car frig was packed with lots of frozen meals that I had cooked in advance when we began our journey. This really works for us and takes the pressure off needing to carry lots of supplies, and cooking a meal at the end of a day of travelling. In most holiday parks and campsites, except for the remote Outback ones, there are excellent and well equipped Camp Kitchens available with a stove or a microwave for reheating. Many campers and young travellers and backpackers don't even bother carrying much cooking equipment now and rely on the camp kitchens. I soon learnt though that there are a lot of Chinese tourists travelling through the southern states and particularly along the Great Ocean Road in Mobile campers and they know how to cook up a storm in the camp kitchens. I was quite fascinated to often walk into a camp kitchen and find a Chinese family chopping and dicing lots of cabbage and numerous vegetables on the benches, and always with a pot of rice bubbling on the stove. They had some excellent equipment as well such as a small food processor for mincing meat, compact saucepans and the ubiquitous soy sauce. Not many could speak very good English, however  we often found a way to discuss what they were cooking. I loved that. Mostly they were gracious and stood aside so that others could use the stove etc. Discussing food overcomes a lot of obstacles, don't you think?

We topped up with fresh fruit and vegetables, milk etc along the way at Farmers Markets and roadside stalls. However fresh fruit and vegetables can't be taken over the border into most southern states and by the time we arrived in Melbourne most of our frozen meals were eaten anyway. It works well for us to stay in a cabin occasionally as I often then cook a large meal and freeze portions for later. Whilst we often shouted ourselves a good coffee in the morning when travelling, buying meals can be very expensive when travelling.

The fresh fruit and vegetables available in Tasmania was often obtainable from roadside stalls and markets, particularly apples.

Pop's Garden, An economical roadside stall in Tasmania
I also loved how many book swap cabinets there were in the parks and small towns where we travelled. This is so practical for travellers who are ready for a new book to read and are happy to swap what they have just read for a new one.  A really nice one we saw in Cygnet in Tasmania, had been built by the Men's Shed there.

 We didn't camp in Cygnet, we stayed up in the hills behind Cygnet on Jetty Road in a delightful one bedroom cabin called Kings Hill Accommodation. The owners Vicki and James made us feel at home and have decorated and fitted out the cabin beautifully. We enjoyed a wonderful couple of nights there, enjoying the pristine country air and the views.


We camped about an hour's drive from Uluru at King's Canyon campsite. This was much more economical than staying at the resorts adjacent to Uluru. It was very hot when we were there with lots of flies annoying everyone, although we didn't succumb to the face nets like most people were wearing. Uluru was everything we expected and more.

Needless to say we didn't take the King's Canyon Rim Walk, although 20 years ago I might have given it a go. The Kings Creek Walk doesn't lead into the canyon anymore which is disappointing because of damage from rain and landslides a couple of years ago.

The Olgas were magnificent and the walking tracks there and into the gorge were relatively easy to access. The domes of the Olgas to us were as impressive as Ayers Rock, possibly because of their accessibility.

The Olgas

There is so much more I could write about this trip however that is probably enough for now. As I work through our hundreds of photos I am sure to be inspired to share some more of our experiences with you. We were very thankful that everything went well without any dramas and that we stayed healthy. Although I did need to hunt down a dentist at Ulverstone when we were camped at Penguin, which thankfully was just down the road. I was a bit nervous about it at the time but he was excellent, and a really nice young man.

Thanks for reading and safe and enjoyable travels if you are taking to the roads.

Best wishes


Friday, 16 March 2018

A day out at Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Homemade Blackberry Jam from wild blackberries
 One of the wonderful things about travelling are the unexpected surprises we find  which showcase the contributions that ordinary Aussies are making in our fantastic country. We are still travelling and had a great time in Tassie. I have some stories planned from there for later for this blog.  Now that we have invested in a dongle we have much more reliable access to wifi when travelling, particularly as we are camping some of the time and staying in cabins often Caravan Parks where the wifi signal isn't generally that strong for processing photos.

The beach and surf at Apollo Bay are stunningly beautiful. After breakfast this morning we walked along the beach,  and paddled in the water which wasn't that cold given the overcast conditions,  before driving up into the hinterland and exploring. This was our first day here without rain so we were making the most of it.

There we found a remarkable biodynamic cottage garden, called Otway Herbs, the owners of which send plants which they propagate to mostly cooler destinations along the East Coast including the Atherton Tablelands,  Maleny, around Sydney etc. This is where I bought the Blackberry jam that his wife makes, and where the blackberries grow wild. The owner was a very interesting man to  talk to and  passionate about Landcare, biodynamic farming and the preservation of native species in his area, some of which are now facing extinction due to previous land clearing.

What a great idea!
We also found an Artisan goat soap making farm, now called Karmic Goat Soap works, where I managed to take a few photos,  however the doors were open but no one seemed to be home.  There was a vast array of very impressive looking soaps for sale. Note the change of name on  the photo below. I suspect they also run soap making workshops if you are interested. The information on their wall explains how well they treat their goats and keep the family unit of goats together, ensuring healthier and happier goats and a richer milk supply. It all sounds very calming and holistic, and goat soap is supposed to be very gentle on our skin.

Goat soap

Mr. HRK enjoying the waves

Best wishes and I hope all is going well in your part of the world.

 Keeping on travelling.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Rye Sourdough Bread

This is a very quick post before we leave on holiday. I am taking a small quantity of sourdough starter with me.You just never know when you will be able to whip up a loaf of bread en route.

This is my latest recipe for Rye sourdough bread that I am using and I just love it. I want to know I have the recipe at my fingertips if I have a sudden urge to make a loaf. I love the flavour of rustic Rye and it is grown as a bread making grain. I use Laucke Rye Breadmaking flour at the moment. However, I will be researching where I can buy Rye flour more economically, probably online. Please let me know if you know of a reliable mill to buy it from.


140g Desem (sourdough mother)
360g Bakers Flour (Laucke Rye breadmaking flour)
112g plain flour (or wholemeal for a heavier and even healthier loaf)
278g lukewarm water
31g oil
21g honey
10g salt


Mix the Desem,water, oil, honey and salt together in a container.
Combine the Bakers flour and plain flour together in a large bowl and make a hole in the centre of the flour.
Add the sourdough yeast mixture to the flour and mix to form a dough. Leave to rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.
Remove from the bowl and knead a few times. Place back in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 3-4 hours until double the size.

Remove from the bowl, knead again a few times and place in a lightly oiled bread tin.
Allow to rise again in a warm spot for a couple of hours until it fills your tin.

Using a very sharp knife, make a few slits across the top of the bread to facilitate a better rise.

Place in a preheated oven at 220 degrees for 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 200 degrees for another 20 minutes.

 Remove from the oven and remove the hot cooked bread from the tin, very carefully,  and then place the bread back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up. Remove and allow to cool before slicing. (Waiting is the hardest part)

This is a quick summary I have given of my bread making process. Seeds can be added to the flour or on top of the loaf if desired.

Please contact me though if you would like some more information.

Best wishes