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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Our Fraser Island Creeper flowers to celebrate Australia's inaugural National Gardening Week



This week is Australia's inaugural National Gardening Week from the 8th-14th October, 2017, and to celebrate it in my part of the world, I would like to share with you  a few photos of the first waxy pink, bell shaped flowers from our beautiful  Fraser Island Creeper, "Tecomanthe hillii".  We transplanted the plant from a pot last year to a strong trellis at the back of our property which faces North and now has a dedicated sprinkler system and it is flourishing. Location and water are everything. It is a native and quite rare plant, endemic to Fraser Island situated off the Queensland Coast, which is the largest sand Island in the world and World Heritage listed. Amazingly rainforest grows in the sand on Fraser Island and so does this spectacular woody climbing vine, which flowers along the length of the vine. The flowers are pollinated by native bees, insects and honey eaters and seem resistant to pets and diseases. It is also very suited to climbing up a well established tree. We are so thrilled that it has decided to flower, and each morning we visit it to check for more blooms.



National Gardening Week was launched at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this year, to highlight the associated environmental, social and health benefits of gardening, and the improved mental and physical well being that gardening brings. Is it a coincidence then that it coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week as well? What a wonderful synergy that these two events can bring to a lot of people.



Most people who are avid gardeners will tell you that despite the physical benefits, they feel so much more relaxed and at peace with the world when they step out into their gardens and start gardening. I know that I do.

So that we can continue to enjoy our garden, and so that it doesn't become a burden, Neil and I are starting to be mindful this Summer of the need for low maintenance plants, water wise plants, plants that attract the birds and beneficial insects, and less vegetables which require a lot of attention. However I still need to have lots of herbs growing in Summer, as these are quite easy to maintain and with all the cooking I do they save a lot of money by being easily accessible from our garden. I also gain a lot of pleasure from flowers in the garden and they are also essential for attracting the bees so that they can pollinate our Passionfruit vine and other herbs and vegetables.

My tropical orchids are a nice interest and will still survive if left to their own devices for a while, as long as they are watered in the hot months, however I try to give them lots of TLC. An automatic sprinkler system is essential in that regard. I try to fertilise them every two weeks throughout the Summer months.





Just a couple of my orchids flowering out on our patio.


Dendrobium Farmerii Thrysiflorum "Colette"

Lots of the very old-fashioned Lilly bulb are planted throughout our garden so the flowers just explode at this time of year. They don't last long, so I enjoy them whilst we can.




This is Blue Salvia which the Sunbirds hang from daily whilst drinking in the rich nectar. I have just pruned the bush back and because it is such a strong plant, gifted to me by a very generous former neighbour, I have taken cuttings and  potted them hoping that some of them will strike. We fertilised it after pruning it, and already it is shooting.


Last but not least, this is the flower of the spring onion, or eschallot. I allow it to flower as it attracts the native bees which are so important for pollination in the garden. I hope that one day they will decide to build  a hive nearby.




This is a slightly shorter post as I am finishing here because our WiFi and Internet are off and on at the moment pending the imminent installation of the NBN. I really hope it all goes smoothly as we are all so dependent on WiFi these days and if it works at a faster speed as promised that will be wonderful.

Enjoy the rest of your week everyone,

Happy gardening,

Pauline

Monday, 9 October 2017

Sticky Chicken Legs with Brown Rice and Stir Fried Vegetables


Who doesn't love sticky chicken wings or chicken drumsticks that are finger lickin' good? The weekend is the time when I am really drawn to more casual meals that are easy on preparation, but definitely delicious, and can still be cooked from scratch. This is a good weekender meal. However admittedly the Hoisin and Soy sauces for this dish come out of a bottle. I think that is ok sometimes, don't you?

 I realised I still had a full bottle of Hoisin sauce in the pantry after making gyozas a few months ago. I had bought extra sauce at the time and thought I would try it in combination with other typically Chinese sauce ingredients this time to use it up and it worked beautifully. If you like more sauce, all of the ingredients except for the chicken can just be doubled. If you have the time and think of it, the chicken would be even tastier marinaded for 6-12 hours beforehand, however this is isn't essential.

Serves 4
Ingredients:

1 kg chicken legs, about 8,  or 16 wings if you prefer
1/2 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 tablespoons Honey
4 chopped garlic cloves depending on their size
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon dried ginger or galangal as well for extra oomph, optional
2 cups brown or white rice

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  1. Mix together well the soy and hoisin sauces, honey, garlic and ginger in a medium sized bowl
  2. If you have time, marinate the chicken in this mixture overnight in the refrigerator
  3. Because this is a sticky mixture, I lined an average sized baking tray with two layers of alfoil to prevent any leakage and gooey sauces sticking on the tray
  4. Place the chicken pieces on the tray and cover each chicken piece with the sauce
  5. Transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes depending on your oven. Turn the chicken pieces every 15 minutes to prevent burning. The chicken should be caramelised and cooked through.
  6.  I serve this with brown rice (for health reasons) although white tastes great, and  stir fried vegetables, such as capsicum, zucchini, broccoli or bok choy if you have it, and whatever else you have that is colorful, tasty and healthy.
There are lots of recipe variations out there on sticky chicken legs however this one is so easy with minimal ingredients required.

Dear friends, I hope your week is going well.

Best wishes

Pauline











Thursday, 5 October 2017

Stuffed Italian Summer Zucchini with Yoghurt Sauce



  Italian Summer zucchini, somewhat larger than desired,  found their way onto our kitchen bench, bequeathed  from a kind friend. So what do I do with these generously sized vegetables, I stuff them. That is what I have done, and baked them in a yoghurt custard,  and they are delicious. The zucchini are halved, hollowed out a little to hold some stuffing, and the scooped out flesh can be added to the stuffing to make more filling if necessary.



They should be harvested when they are still young and tender, however turn your back on them for a week or so and they can grow to the size of a football, begging to be baked. This variety is pale speckled green, more bulbous than the common zucchini, and are most often found in Middle Eastern cuisine.

When I did some research on them, I discovered they originate from the Cucurbitaceae family, an early Italian variety. "Zucca" is the Italian word for squash, which is why zucchini are sometimes called "Italian soft skinned squash". Whilst we call a pumpkin a pumpkin in Australia, and a spade a spade as well,  in many overseas countries they are called a squash,  a hard skinned Winter squash, and they are not always meant for human consumption, but are fed to the animals.

We don't have much luck growing zucchinis in our vegetable garden once the summer humidity arrives, however our friend has a hot and dry Northern facing garden which suits various varieties of squash. Home gardens and Farmer's markets are treasure troves for different types of vegetables not usually found at the Supermarkets, and I enjoy the opportunity to cook with different types of vegetables and fruit requiring some research into what I can best achieve with them. They might not look perfect like those in the supermarkets,  but looks are only skin deep.

These Italian Zucchini pictured below have been harvested when they can be eaten as a tender vegetable. I also have a couple which were picked early that look just like these, well almost.



These 2 Photos of Italian Summer Zucchini copied with permission from this website:
https://australianseed.com/persistent/catalogue_images/products/zucchini-italianlightgreen.jpg

Image result for australian summer squash

These plants also produce lots of wonderful and highly prized zucchini flowers

Below is the Italian Zucchini I was given weighing 1 kilo. It's a little battle scarred but still ok for baking.





Pictured next to two fairly normal sized ones from the same garden

Let's cook:

This recipe Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 or 2 large Italian Zucchini (Summer squash) or bush marrow, cut in half lengthwise ( or just any overgrown zucchini)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
500g minced lamb ( or beef if you prefer)
1 large onion
1/2 cup Fine Bourghul
Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup finely chopped mint or parsley (I used mint)
Salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
(Next time I will add 1 tablespoon of currants for a piquant addition to the filling.)

Yoghurt Sauce

3 cups plain Greek yoghurt
1 egg white
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint, or 4 chopped teaspoons of fresh
salt
20 g butter

Let's cook:

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.
Soak Bourghul in water for 5 minutes, then squeeze it dry.

Meanwhile make the sauce:

Whisk the yoghurt and the egg white. Then simmer uncovered for 10 minutes whilst stirring until it is rich and creamy. I don't cover it as one drop of water will spoil it.

Saute the garlic, mint and salt in the butter for 1 minute, and then stir it into the yoghurt mixture.

(I found this Yoghurt Sauce in Stephanie Alexander's book, "The Cook's Companion". Yoghurt will quickly separate when heated, due to it's delicate acid balance, so it needs to be stabilised before using, or stir it into hot, already cooked foods just before using. That is why I am adding 1 egg white and salt to stabilise it. Yoghurt should never be whipped without a stabiliser added as it will break up the curd, and cause the whey to separate out.

To make the Mince filling:



Saute the onion in olive oil until golden. Mix the onion with the remaining ingredients except the zucchini and fry up a small amount to test the seasoning.



Pack the mince mixture into the zucchini halves, then rest them in a large baking or gratin style dish.
Pour over the yoghurt sauce and bake for 45 minutes.



This dish can be served hot, or warm or cold, with some finely chopped parsley.



Have a great Friday.

Best wishes

Pauline

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Slow cooker Tomato Sauce, Rustic Tomato Soup, and a loaf of Sourdough Bread, perfect.


Rustic Tomato Soup
 At the beginning of the week I had tomatoes galore, needing to be cooked. So this week the theme in my kitchen has been mainly about the beautiful, ripe red  tomato, and lots of them. I became quite excited at last Saturday's Farmer's Market when there were quite a few different varieties of tomatoes for $2.00 or less a kilo in excellent condition, everyone was selling them,  so of course I ended up coming home with about 6 kilos of them, perhaps more. Very easy to do when they are bundled up in 2 kilo bags. Oops! Then I had to think of ways to use them up. In such a situation I  use my tried and true recipes and now have enough tomato sauces, soups and relishes to see us through for a few months. I'd like to share with you my Rustic Tomato Soup recipe  with White Pepper, which Mr. HRK really likes as his Mum used to make for the family. So I have tried to replicate that one. Also I filled my slow cooker pot with chopped tomatoes, sauteed onions and char grilled capsicum and left it cooking for 24 hours and am packaging it today into freezer bags..

I've been really surprised at how bountiful and inexpensive the vegetables and some fruit varieties such as bananas are at present. I rarely shop for fruit and vegetables at the supermarket if I can help it, preferring to support the local Farmer's Market, however even at the Supermarket this week I have noticed the broccoli and some varieties of tomatoes are around $2.00 a kilo, with other veges also markedly cheaper. The oversupply and low cost of Vegetables was a segment on the local news during the week, blaming the warmer Winter this year for an early supply of excess produce which in some areas is literally falling on the ground with not enough people available to pick or harvest it. This is devastating for the farmers, so whilst it is plentiful it is a golden opportunity to buy in bulk and cook or preserve it for later when the prices will certainly soar, and to also  support our local farmers. I'm not looking forward to paying $7.00 a kilo for tomatoes when the season finishes. We're having a break from growing them as our last lot of plants didn't do well because of nematodes, but at these prices it's easier to buy them for now.



The photos are of the chopped tomatoes in my slow cooker pot ready for long, slow cooking. When I was thinking of doing this I called my good friend Julia in Bowen, the tomato growing capital of Queensland, although Bundaberg is starting to challenge that reputation. My method here is based on what Julia does with the copious amounts of tomatoes and capsicums grown in Bowen that she ends up with.



I finely chopped three brown onions and sauteed these until soft and golden and starting to caramelise. Meanwhile I char grilled one red capsicum, placed it in a freezer bag when the skin was blackened until it was cooled and then removed the blackened skin. I would normally use about 3 capsicum though if I had them for extra flavour. I added the cooked onion and chopped cooked capsicum to the pot full of chopped tomato, gave it a stir and allowed it to slow cook for 24 hours. The end result had darkened in colour with the tomatoes broken down, and with some of the juices removed, and how long it takes really depends on your slow cooker. Overnight might be all that is needed so I would check it after 12 hours. The slow setting on my slow cooker is very slow, but I also have a Slow High setting so next time I think I will use that.

Allow the tomato sauce to cool, and then add two cups, equivalent to a can of tomatoes to freezer bags and store flat in your freezer ready for lasagna, bolognaise etc.

Rustic Tomato Soup with White Pepper (photo above)

Here is my Rustic Tomato Soup Recipe, which Mr. HRK's Mum used to cook a lot for their family apparently and I've tried to replicate it. She added milk to hers so that is optional in place of the wine or verjuice, particularly if children will be eating this. That is still how Mr. HRK prefers his.

Ingredients:

6 large tomatoes, very ripe yet firm (Roma tomatoes work very well)
1 kg brown onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin oil, plus extra to serve
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Ground Himalayan Rock Salt to taste
White pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional), or to taste
1/2 cup (125ml) dry white wine or verjuice
1 litre boiling water

Method: 

Cut the core out of the tomatoes. This soup is meant to be on the rustic side so there is no need to peel or seed them. Cut each tomato into halves, quarters then eighths. Cook the onions over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan for about 10 minutes using a wooden spoon until they are nice and golden and very soft. Add the garlic and salt to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, which will enhance the flavour of the tomatoes and give a boost if they are not in perfect condition.

Cook for 10 minutes and then add the wine and water. I only added half the water so that it would be nice and thick, and the water can be eliminated  completely for a superior soup which won't go as far. This can then also be used as a pasta topping with some fresh basil or oregano added. Tomatoes are so versatile.

 Simmer, covered for 45 minutes before serving. Add plenty of white pepper to taste. (This is the secret ingredient.)  Ladle the soup into the bowl,  drizzle a little olive oil and enjoy. I add fresh chopped herbs and some grated Parmesan cheese as well to serve and a slice of my sourdough bread toasted.

 I also remembered yesterday that I still had a whole green cabbage from the markets in our second refrigerator as well, which was still really fresh and crunchy, so a quick sauerkraut ferment, and that is taken care of.

Naked Kraut:



By this stage after dealing with so many tomatoes I was ready to take a few shortcuts. So I grated the whole cabbage except for the outer leaves and the stalk  in the food processor, added 2 tablespoons of Himalayan Rock Salt  and allowed it to juice in a large bowl for 45 minutes. This made about 1800 grams of  grated cabbage which fitted nicely into a very large Moccona coffee bottle, the largest available I think, and found at the Incredible Tip Shop in Mackay. We don't drink instant coffee, although obviously some people do as there were quite a few there for sale for about 1 dollar each. There was a slight overflow of juices so I quickly sterilised another smaller bottle and filled that one up too.

Fermenting and bubbling away
That is definitely the END of fermenting for me for a while. I am calling this my Naked Kraut range, I saw that name somewhere and borrowed it, as this is just cabbage and brine and a few seeds thrown in. Nothing fancy but I like the taste. I think I have enough now to last us for 12 months unless I become inspired again early next Winter.




Sourdough Bread:

I try to keep to the routine of baking my Sourdough bread on Monday each week however for some reason that didn't happen this week. So while the tomatoes were cooking and I had sometime I made a loaf  yesterday. The sourdough yeast for the bread was ready for use last Monday so I put it in the refrigerator and just took it out early in the morning to bring it back to room temperature and it was ready to use. I think this is one of my best attempts to date. Like everything it helps to keep in practice, and every time I bake a loaf I learn something new. A slice of sourdough toast with a bowl of Rustic Tomato Soup was delicious for a light tea last night.

In the bread tin after the first rise on the patio in a glass bowl.



Ready for the oven after rising outside in the tin on the warm patio.

A nice large loaf of Sourdough bread, and smelling delicious. It needs to completely cool before slicing. 



So it's been quite a busy week and I am looking forward to a restful weekend. However Sunday will be packed with excitement as the Cowboys play the Melbourne Storm in Sydney in the NRL Grand Final, just in case you haven't heard, and as we are North Queenslanders, Go the Cowboys. Steak will be on Sunday's menu, in theme with the Cowboys, and we are looking forward to that. It should be a great day, particularly when we win!! LOL.

Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend and thanks for visiting.

Best wishes

Pauline

Monday, 25 September 2017

Chopped Vegetable Ferment in Lovely Layers - Fermenting Phase 4


 

I had some excess vegetables which were still fresh last week, so rather than let them go to waste, I decided to ferment them or you could call this pickling I suppose but there is no sugar or vinegar involved and it is employing lacto-fermentation using salt which preserves the vegetables. I layered the vegetables in jars with coriander, fennel and mustard seeds, added brine and hey presto another ferment starts to process. I have learned to leave the lids loose when using smaller jars  as in this case, to prevent an explosion, and I think I will be storing these jars in the refrigerator after 5 days or so as the weather is warming up during the day. Ferments are a very flavoursome condiment, adding kick to your salad, your leftovers, and anything else you think of to add it to. Vegetables are in such incredible abundance at the moment, so I wasn't afraid to experiment with this layered approach. I was also gifted some amazing, organic, golden zucchinis from his garden by our friend Paul, so a couple of those went in to adding the colour of Summer to the mix.



If you look carefully at this photo you can see the small bubbles at the top of the brine. This is a sign that the fermenting has begun.

As I watch it fermenting each day, the sliced radish in the jar is turning the brine a nice coloured pink, and the fresh dill leaves add a green feathery dimension, so besides the good bacteria doing its stuff, the contents are also starting to look quite attractive. I bottled these jars on the 21st September, and they are ready for tasting after a couple of days. I have just tasted a vege sample from each bottle and they taste tangy, whilst still quite crisp,  and the liquid has been a bit fizzy so I am refrigerating them to eat at a later date. The ferment is really active for the first 3 days and this type of fermenting with more liquid and a variety of vegetables seems to work much faster than the standard sauerkraut does, particularly in the warmer weather.

Method:

This recipe makes a 1 Litre Jar

Wash and prepare 3 cups of chopped or sliced seasonal vegetables (radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, beans, capsicum), and beetroot can be used but be prepared for a red ferment with a stronger and more earthy flavour. Green spring onions and red onion will add some tang. As you can see from the photo, this time I used Cauliflower, Broccoli, Gold Zucchini, Radishes, and firm cabbage leaves as the weight to keep the vegetables covered with brine.

 Select a mixed teaspoon of  herbs and spices that you like, such as dill seeds, fennel seeds,  coriander  or caraway seeds and add those to the base of your sterilised jar. If you like some heat, add some chilli flakes and black or white peppercorns. I also added some fresh Dill fronds as I have Dill  growing but it won't last long in our garden once Summer strikes.



Add the chopped and sliced vegetables to your jar in attractive layers, and leave a 4 cm gap at the top of the jar.

The Brine:

I then added the brine so that the vegetables will ferment. To fill a 1 Litre jar, mix 2 cups of distilled water with 1 tablespoon of Himalayan rock salt and pour into your 1 litre jar, leaving 3 cm clear of the rim of your jar for any bubbling and effervescing that will occur.

As I have done in previous fermenting sessions, I add a couple of firm cabbage leaves to the top of the vegetables which fits snugly into the jar and weighs down the vegetables keeping them submerged which is essential for the success of the ferment. You can also use some kind of weight such as a cabbage stalk cut to size, or a small bottle, or a clean smooth stone, which fits inside the bottle rim. The vegetables must remain submerged below the brine. The vegetables need to be pushed down firmly in the bottle as they will also release some liquid and reduce in size creating more space in the bottle.



Leave the lid on the jar loose, stand it in a breakfast bowl and cover with a cloth, and wait for the magic to happen. I also use a tamper each morning to submerge the vegetables just to ensure they remain covered. If you can find a small Moccona jar they work really well for fermenting. Thanks to Chel from Going Grey and Slightly Green for that tip. I also found some large Moccona jars at the Mackay City Council Recycling Depot when I went there with Mr. HRK  on one of his "treasure hunts", which have been useful for fermenting Sauerkraut. Cover the jar with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 2-7 days, depending on the temperature where you live.The colder it is, the longer it will take.

Sarah Wilson in her interesting book Simplicious where I first saw the layered ferment idea, suggests using fermented vegetables as you would a gherkin, diced and added to mayonnaise to make a tartare, or to a salsa for an extra tang and vegetable. Sounds delicious to me.

Are you are a fermentista? If so I would love to hear about what you are doing in the comments section at the end of the story?

Best wishes and thanks for visiting.

Pauline





Saturday, 23 September 2017

Rhubarb, Meringue and Almond Cake

Sweet talking about Rhubarb.




My Rhubarb, Meringue and Almond cake straight out of the oven

Rhubarb, a very inconsequential yet colourful stalk before it is cooked, almost a red celery look alike,  comes into its own in desserts, and when this cake is served by the slice, the rhubarb provides colour and its very own wonderful unique flavour. It comes in three layers comprising a light and delicious butter cake base, a tangy rhubarb layer, topped with a textured, sweet, and nutty layer of meringue.

This is a really delicious cake, and I urge you to try it. Your guests will love it, served with fresh cream or yoghurt. If you can grow rhubarb or buy it at a reasonable price from the Farmer's market you are very fortunate. Most people have eaten rhubarb and apple pies, crumble or tarts at some stage, and know how delicious this ordinary looking vegetable, yes it is really a vegetable, becomes when cooked into a dessert.

 I generally like to bake in the morning when it is cooler and I am more of a morning person anyway, so I leave the butter and the eggs out of the refrigerator overnight, the night before, and then I am all set to start baking first thing in the morning. That is a matter of personal preference though and depends on time restrictions for some people. If you can find an apprentice chef lurking somewhere in your home, give them the job of chopping the rhubarb, that will shorten the preparation time for you when making this cake. It is well worth the effort.

Anyway let's Cook:

Prepare the rhubarb: Remove the leaves from your rhubarb and relegate them straight to your compost heap, they are not edible. Trim off the dry ends of the stalks. Wash and chop your rhubarb into 0.5-1 cm pieces and set aside in a bowl.
Preheat oven to 180 deg.C.
Grease a 23 cm round spring form cake tin and line just the base with baking paper.
Separate the yolks and egg whites of two eggs into two small bowls and set both aside.

Cake Base Ingredients:

125 g softened butter
150 g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
150 g self-raising flour
50 g cornflour
2 bunches rhubarb, trimmed and leaves removed, or approx. 1 kg rhubarb (cut into 0.5-1 cm pieces)

Cake Method:

Sift the flour and cornflour together into a bowl.
Mix the butter, sugar, salt and egg and egg yolks with an electric mixer until creamy. Then slowly add spoonfuls of the sifted flour and the sifted cornflour and continue mixing until you have a thick cake batter.



Place the cake batter in a greased 23 cm spring form cake tin and place the chopped rhubarb evenly on top of the cake mixture. Place the baking dish in the middle of your pre-heated oven. It takes at least 30-35 minutes at 180 degrees C. to bake depending on your oven. Allow 45 minutes.

(15 minutes before the cake is due to be finished cooking, or after 30 minutes of baking, start preparing the Meringue Topping. Instructions below.)

The surface of the cake should be visible through the rhubarb layer and will appear set. Test that the the cake layer is cooked by inserting a skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. Remove the cake from oven and readjust oven temperature to 160 deg. C.

Now pour the Meringue Topping evenly on the Rhubarb layer and cake, and place back in the oven again for about 15 minutes at 160 degrees C.

Meringue Topping:
2 egg whites
100 g sugar
50 g ground almonds or hazelnuts

Beat the egg whites and sugar until it is firm. Add the ground nuts and continue stirring. After a baking time of 30-45 minutes pour the topping over the cake and bake for another 15 minutes at 160 degrees, as detailed above.

To Serve:

 After baking the cake, allow to completely cool before removing from the cake tin. I sifted fine icing sugar for decoration over each cake slice,  just before serving, and then  placed a dollop of thickened cream over the top of the slice. I think it looked and tasted really nice.

I intended to take a photo "shoot" of the cake sliced and presented on the plates, however I am not Nigella Lawson (LOL), and I was talking to Lou  in the kitchen whilst I did this. Then before I knew it the cake plates were being whisked out the door by Mr. HRK to our 8 hungry tennis playing friends. Yes it was Friday night, and our turn to have them all over for dinner. So I will just have to bake this cake again and take some photos worthy of this post. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!

Best wishes

Pauline

For more information on Rhubarb click here

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Celebrating Spring at the Annual Mackay Orchid Extravaganza, in Queensland, Australia

A magnificent soft cane Dendrobium
The annual Orchid Extravaganza located at Queens's Park in Mackay last weekend was a showcase of Tropical Orchids, Bromeliads, and all manner of tropical and native plants. I'd like to share with you  photos of some of the beautiful blooms which local growers have been nurturing for the display. 
We might not have the climate or population to produce spectacles such as the Canberra Floriade or the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, however from small things big things grow. People who grow orchids, and I humbly fit into that category on a small scale, are passionate about what they do.




I took many of these photos in the Orchid House in Queen's Park which is staffed and maintained by the Mackay City Council with help from a small group of dedicated volunteers. The Orchid House is also open to the public during the week, but it is a good idea to check the MCC website for opening hours. This is a very popular tourist attraction in Mackay and a nice place to take visitors



The local Orchid Societies, and a few of the Growers who sell to the Public set up stunning displays in the Orchid House for this event and many of the orchids on display were also available for sale at the booths outside.



What impressed me was how all of the orchid growers who were also selling their stock were so generous with information in answer to the myriad of questions from the public. Each orchid variety has particular growing requirements even though over all they are fairly easy to grow in our subtropical climate as long as they are watered during the dry hot months. The seasons have been all of our kilter this year though and that has been stressful for some of the growers trying to produce flowering plants for this event. Information sessions about various aspects of growing orchids and bromeliads were held at the park during the weekend and were well attended as was the live auction of plants.

Splendid speckled white Phalaenopsis and bright orange Cattleyas
The following three photos from different angles are of the rich pink Phalaenopsis orchid, Phal. Younghome New York,  displayed by MnS orchids, and yes I bought one of these after seeing it on display. I should be able to enjoy it in flower for a few weeks now.




A golden Dendrobium


The beautiful Swamp Orchid.


This is a stunning Cattleya, heavily perfumed.

No show with out punch. Even Elton John was there drumming up business for his concert this weekend.




Isn't Spring a beautiful time of year? I love being surrounded by plants in flower.

Best wishes

Pauline