Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Authentically Scottish-style Lentil Soup

 

Lentil Soup is Food for Everyone, and I know you are thinking that there are just so many lentil soup recipes already on the planet. Why post another one? Whilst I am wondering, why haven't I put this superb Scottish soup recipe up before on HRK when I make it so often. It's my go to lentil soup. It's not even officially soup season here yet in North Queensland, but on a long awaited wet and rainy day when the temperatures are in the range of 23 deg. C - 28 deg. C instead of 30 deg C plus and climbing, it's time to hunt down that packet of red lentils in the back of the pantry and make lentil soup livened up with whatever else is in the pantry and the refrigerator. Do you get where I'm coming from? Soup making doesn't have to be complicated, and definitely shouldn't be. It can be quite a spontaneous activity. 

This story is like a love letter to lentils which have given me an easy approach into dinner and has reminded me of my Scottish Ancestry. We might even eat a roast beef sandwich with it. Perhaps I am feeling a bit frivolous, because it's only two more sleeps before I fly out to France to visit my son, his partner and our beautiful grandchildren, yikes, it's actually happening. I believe my son makes lentil soup often during their sometimes quite miserable Winters over in France too, so there's a synergy happening here. Our tropical Winters are far from miserable though, they are balmy and wonderful.

The Backstory:

There is an underlying backstory about this soup. This recipe is based on the easiest lentil soup recipe, originating authentically from the Scottish Highlands, and given to me many years ago by our Scottish friend Calum Ferguson, whom Mr. HRK had as a Highschool teaching colleague for many years. They had a great teaching relationship and a friendship which has endured, and still bounce ideas off each other when they are working on various projects around the house, although Calum is a lot more mechanically minded than Mr. HRK which has come in very handy at times when we've had car problems. Do you detect an obvious Scottish name in there as well, and he still has a very detectable Highlander accent. This is authentically a recipe from the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands where Calum comes from. He says that the Scottish still traditionally like to have soup and sandwiches for an evening meal, or sandwiches with their soup, sounds so cosy and wonderful to me.  For this recipe you need a Pressure cooker to really do it justice. However, I have generally simmered it slowly in a heavy based pot and it is still delicious. The weather is almost Scottish here in North Queensland today, it's raining after weeks of unseasonal heat, but then there is a new normal it seems with the weather. So, to my way of thinking, it is the perfect opportunity to use what I have on hand and make a healthy soup, which also stretches the budget. 

A week ago, during our heatwave I never thought I would be making soup only a week later.  Leftovers can be frozen for another rainy day. This has been my very easy go to Red Lentil soup recipe for over 10 years, and each time I change it to suit my mood and what I have on hand. It is just so supremely satisfying and enriching.

Notes about the ingredients:

I am giving you the basic list of ingredients as given to me by Calum, and then I am adding to the list what I added to my latest batch of soup, and to previous soups. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find bacon stock cubes as per the original recipe anymore, so I used vegetable ones, but chicken stock would be nice too also resulting in a lighter soup.  If you can find bacon stock cubes anywhere on the planet, please let me know. Or make your own bacon stock if you have time. The saltiness of bacon and lentils marry beautifully together. As I said I am using what I have on hand, that's how I often try to cook during the week, particularly when making soups.

In 2013, I wrote: "In addition to onions and carrots in went two very small bulbs of fennel from our garden, 1/2 green capsicum, and there's plenty of parsley which I'll use for a garnish.
Add a tin of cannellini beans or chickpeas to stretch it further and add to its rustic appeal, that also means lots more healthy fibre. Oh, I also added a freshly picked long red chilli from the garden to the pot for some added warmth and flavour. " I never finished that post, life got in the way, but I know that the soup was delicious. Grate some parmesan cheese over your bowl of soup if you wish.

Why does this recipe fit the category of cooking on a budget. Red Lentils are cheap to buy and they keep for a long time in the pantry and don't take very long to cook. Onions and carrots the basic vegetables of this soup aren't expensive either, and if you have a ready supply of dried herbs and spices which I suspect you do, then turmeric and  chilli flakes whilst optional, are probably in there, as is salt and pepper. However, mine didn't need any extra salt added.

Ingredients:

Serves at least 6 people and can be thinned down with water to feed more if necessary.

(The first four ingredients are essential to the original recipe, the next 3 are optional but I think they enhance the soup flavour beautifully)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed through a fine colander (original recipe said 1/2 a large mug)
2 onions, finely chopped
3 bacon, vegetable or chicken stock cubes 
3-4 good sized carrots (3 if they are very large), sliced and chopped
2 stalks finely chopped celery (optional, not in original recipe)
1 long red chilli, or 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional) but I love the flavour
Cover all of the above with water in the saucepan
Finely chopped coriander or parsley to garnish 


Method:

Bring ingredients to the boil and allow to simmer until the lentils and the vegetables are cooked. (I like to saute the onions in a little olive oil first with the carrots and celery to bring out their flavour, but that's not essential if you are in a hurry. In the original recipe they were all just added to the pot together and brought to the boil.)


Enjoy the aroma of the soup filling your home. There's nothing better on a wet and chilly day.


When cooked, add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Puree to serve or leave as lumpy as you like.

Garnish with fresh coriander, parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Swirl a little yoghurt through. I love a little bit of fun soup art.



There are lots of variations out there for Lentil soup, and I have added pumpkin and other vegetables at times, however this recipe is for a good basic soup which also stretches the budget and is very nourishing.

Is your Scottish blood stirring? Mine is.


Warm wishes

Pauline
















Sunday, 16 April 2023

How to make a self-saucing Lemon Delicious Pudding

 

Lemon Delicious Pudding is a very popular self-saucing pudding in Queensland, and after harvesting the first crop of the year of precious lemons from our potted tree, this was the first dessert I wanted to make with them. When I say first harvest, I mean 4 lemons. The recipe produces a luscious and creamy lemon sauce topped with a soft lemon flavoured sponge cake which is an absolute joy to eat. It is also a cinch to make. The recipe is straight out of the iconic Stephanie Alexander's cookbook, The Cook's Companion. Some Lemon Delicious Puddings don't create enough sauce for my taste, they are all sponge and no sauce, but this one does. It is also very easy to prepare quickly and can be placed in the oven just before serving the main course.  I love puddings that can be cooking while we are eating our main course. Or, it is also the perfect dessert to pop in the oven and cook at the same time that the family roast dinner is cooking. Is your mouth watering, mine is just thinking about it.

Bush lemons will be in season soon, in Queensland anyway, and if you can manage to locate some of that variety, they are perfect for making this pudding. However, any variety of lemon can be used. I originally posted this recipe on an In My Kitchen post a couple of years ago, but it can be difficult to find the recipe on a normal search, and as I might want to make it for the family with some French lemons when I am overseas, I need to be able to find the recipe easily on my blog. It is a lovely dessert that can be enjoyed at any time of the year, fresh and light for a Summer pudding, but very comforting during Winter. We eat it happily all year round. 

The Best Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe:

Ingredients:

Juice of 2 lemons and the zest of one
60 g butter
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups milk

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. and butter a 1 litre ovenproof basin or serving dish. 
Zest 1 lemon and juice both.
In a food processor, cream the butter with the zest and the sugar, then add the egg yolks.
Add the flour and milk alternately to make a smooth batter.
Scrape the mixture from the side of the processor bowl and blend in the lemon juice.
Tip all of this mixture into a bowl.
In a separate dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm and creamy and fold them into the prepared basin.
Stand the basin in a baking dish and pour in hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the basin.
Transfer the basin and dish carefully to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Check it however after 45 minutes, and when the sponge is browned and firm to the touch, it is cooked. Mine generally needs an hour. 

Serve when it has cooled slightly.

It is delicious served with ice cream or pouring cream.

Hallelujah, after weeks of unseasonably hot weather, it's raining here. I still managed to go for a walk this morning though before the rain started. Win, win.

Warm wishes,
Pauline



Tuesday, 11 April 2023

A local Cairns Market tour at the iconic Rusty's Market

Red Dragonfruit and Custard Apples in the background

 There is no shortage of signage at Rusty's market.


Whenever we are visiting the Far North Queensland city of Cairns, a visit to the Rusty's market is a must for me. This market is in the Cairns city heart, and very easily accessible from Sheridan Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Cairns. The market runs from Friday to Sunday every week and offers a wonderful venue for local producers from Innisfail, south of Cairns, right up to Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands to sell their local produce, handicrafts, breads and much more each week. What I love about Rusty's is that whilst it starts early each morning, it also finishes later in the afternoon, which means unlike a lot of smaller regional centre markets, it's not essential to do your market shopping early in the morning if not convenient. It is also within walking distance of most of the inner-city accommodation for the tourist.

I found that there are bargains to be had on Sunday. By then, the stall holders are over it, particularly after a busy Easter when the weather is still very warm. They just want to sell everything off and pack up and go home. Three Shepard avocadoes for $1.00 a bag, amazing. There's no air-conditioning in these markets which is quite normal, and it's still unseasonably warm at this time of year, so even though the early bird probably does catch the worm, it's also much cooler if you do get there early. Whilst I'm not a local to Cairns, I always try to find the local farmer's stalls, which isn't difficult. There are also stallholders who buy produce up from around Bundaberg and Brisbane, but I think buying their produce defeats the purpose of shopping at a local Farmer's Market. This is without a doubt, the most economical way to shop for fresh produce in Cairns, and also has the best variety available. 

Oops, should be spelled Longans, who cares, it's the fruit that counts.


I bought a bag of these small eggplant, cheap as chips as well. I think they are a variety of Italian eggplant, please let me know if you know exactly what they are. I never see them for sale in any of the normal outlets. However, they are delicious when steamed slightly and then baked. Last night I baked them with a dusting of Cajun seasoning. We ate a few of them and I'll add the rest to a curry. I also baked some Okra, with a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning in the same baking tin.

There was plenty of fresh Okra for sale.


I was inspired when I read Chef Mimi's post recently where she baked some Okra and said they were quite addictive. She used frozen Okra which were then thawed and allowed to drain to remove as much moisture as possible. She dusted hers with a North African spice, I just used a Cajun seasoning, and I really enjoyed them. Add a little extra coarse salt if you like. However, some people find them texturally challenging. Mr. HRK isn't a huge fan of Eggplant or Okra, I really enjoy both of them. They have an unfortunate reputation for being "slimy" when cooked in a stew. I think that baking is the preferred method for cooking them, ensuring that all of the moisture is removed during the process. I just dried the okra that I bought fresh from the market, dribbled a little olive oil over them, dusted them with Cajun seasoning, and baked them at 200 deg. C for 30 minutes, or until they are well cooked. They are delicious as a finger food with a yoghurt dressing, which I flavoured with lemon juice and more Cajun seasoning until it tasted just right or use a Sriracha dressing. Do you have a preferred method of cooking Okra or do you find them challenging to eat?




Baked Okra and Eggplant. Yum.



There are tropical Flower stalls, including Heliconias and Strelitzias and some ornamentals for sale.



Fancy a tropical hat?


At a tropical market, particularly at this time of year in Autumn, there are going to be stalls of fresh ginger, galangal, and turmeric as it is nearly ready to harvest during the cooler weather.

 



In the past, I've used our homegrown galangal to make Salmon and Pickled Galangal parcels, and homemade Galangal Pickle which is delicious with sushi.

The Ginger and turmeric growing in our garden at home will be ready to harvest in a couple of months. The leaves were beginning to brown off a week ago.

Locally grown Roma tomatoes on the Atherton Tablelands are always good quality. I shop around for the best price I can find, but the prices are fairly consistent. I'm still hoping the prices will go lower though.




All fresh herbs and leafy greens, mostly Asian vegetables, very reasonable at $3.00 a bunch.



Sweet and juicy local pineapples.



Lots of lovely passionfruit, just perfect for the topping on a Pavlova or homemade Passionfruit Curd.

Homemade Passionfruit curd

Longans are a delicious tropical fruit similar to Lychees. The skin is peeled, and the seed removed. I still prefer lychees, but longans are the next best thing.



Longans


Yellow Dragonfruit


Multicultural Food Kiosks abound at the markets. I don't have photographs of all of them, but Rusty's is also a great place to meet up with friends and enjoy a good coffee and breakfast. I've seen some folk wandering around sampling the fruit, it's important to try before you buy isn't it? The Hari Krishna stalls serving vegetarian samosas etc are a real crowd favourite.





An interesting variety of locally grown Organic Gourmet mushrooms.

Who needs to travel to France for delicious pastries and Gallett? Oh well, I'm going anyway.

I bought some Local Mareeba new season mandarins and oranges which were delicious and sweet, but I don't have a photo of those. We've eaten them all.

I wrote a December post about Rusty's way back in 2017, where the selection of fruits available was quite different leading up to Christmas. Here's the link if you would like to take a quick peak at that one.

Warm wishes,
Pauline











Friday, 7 April 2023

Easter Chocolate Fudge Cake with Malted Buttercream

This fudgy chocolate cake with a decadent Malted Buttercream icing is the real deal for an Easter extravagance. It's not too late, this cake doesn't take long to make. I've previously posted this Chocolate cake with Nigella's Coffee Buttercream, and because I am absolutely smitten with this cake, I am posting it again with the Malted Buttercream. My daughter Shannon and I have just made this choccy cake together this morning for Easter Sunday tomorrow. It was lovely to bake with her, we don't often have the chance, living in different parts of Sunny Queensland. She has extra little baking tips to pass on to me as well, but being busy at work, leaves little time for baking for her. Like moi, she's in her happy place when she bakes.

One of the challenges with baking a double layer cake, is ensuring the cake batter is distributed evenly between the two tins. It's not as easy as it sounds. Shannon took this on board this morning, and weighed each tin individually, after pouring in the cake batter, and the result is two perfect cakes, evenly matched in height. Do you weigh each cake tin after filling them with batter if baking a double layer cake? If not, I recommend it.

MALTED BUTTERCREAM

Thanks to Emelia Jackson, winner of the Australian Masterchef  series for this recipe. It's from her latest cookbook, First, Cream the Butter and Sugar, as featured in the Australian Women's Weekly.

Ingredients:

320 g unsalted butter, softened

400g icing sugar

300g good-quality milk chocolate, melted and cooled

150 g malted milk powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Method:

Firstly, the butter needs to be slightly firm, not too soft.  This is so that the buttercream is easy to work with.

Fit the paddle attachment to your electric mixer and cream the butter and icing sugar for 3-4 minutes until completely smooth. Scrape down the side of the bowl a couple of times so that the mixture is evenly mixed and very smooth. 

Add the melted chocolate which has cooled down, the malted milk powder and the vanilla.

Mix all of this for another 2-3 minutes until the buttercream is as it should be, smooth and fluffy.

For a special occasion such as a birthday, fill and cover the cake with the melted buttercream.

Then shave some chocolate over the top.

Fudgy Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

Makes a 20 cm two tier cake. 

380 g light brown sugar

250 g cake flour (store bought or see tip below for making your own)

100 dark Dutch cocoa powder (I used Plaistowe premium Dutch processed from Woolworths)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

200 ml boiling water

100 ml neutral-flavoured oil, such as vegetable or canola

200 g sour cream

4 eggs

chocolate shavings to garnish (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C (140 deg. C fan forced)

Line two 20 cm round cake tins with baking paper

Whisk the brown sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt to ensure that there are no lumps. (No need to sift)

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water in a largish jug, then add the oil, sour cream and eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Fold until just combined. We want a lovely tender cake, with a good crumb, overmixing will prevent this from happening.

Split the batter between the cake tins and bake for 50 minutes. This was perfect for my oven but test it with a skewer inserted into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Leave the cakes to cool for 15 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Pauline's baking notes:

  • Adding coffee to the cake batter enhances the flavour of the chocolate. You can't taste the coffee.
  • What I also love about this cake is that it doesn't sink in the middle as some do.
  • Cake flour: After making this cake, I am really on board with using cake flour, for a superior and tender cake crumb. Cake flour is a low protein flour that creates a very tender fluffy and light cake. You can make your own. Just measure out 430 g plain flour, then add 70 g corn flour and sift together. By adding the corn flour, the gluten content in the plain flour is reduced from 11 per cent to between 7 and 9 per cent. (Emelia Jackson). I've started making it in a large batch, so I am always prepared for a cake making session.
  • As I said at the beginning, weighing each batter filled cake tin, ensures an even distribution of batter throughout the tins.
  • My only disappointment with the buttercream was that it was lighter in colour than I expected. I chose Cadbury's milk chocolate but perhaps it wasn't dark enough in colour. There's a lot of chocolate in this butter cream though. Next time I make it I'll add some extra cocoa to darken up the buttercream a little if it needs it.
Wishing you a very happy Easter.

Pauline x




Wednesday, 5 April 2023

In My Kitchen April, 2023


The Easter Long Weekend starts tomorrow, and as I write this, I am under the lifesaving ceiling fan, as the Northern tropical heat hasn't abated like it's supposed to over Easter. I am in beautiful Cairns, in Far North Queensland at our daughter's home, and I know there is lots of chocolate "hidden" in the refrigerator waiting for Easter Sunday to be enjoyed by all of us. I the Easter bunny coming to your house? Delicious chocolate goodies and Hot Cross Buns are the theme of foodies and food bloggers around the world leading up to Easter, there's so much Easter excitement. However, my go-to fudgy, double layered Chocolate Fudge Cake will be our baked chocolate indulgence of choice over Easter. It will be the third time I've baked this beauty over the last few weeks. Whether it's iced with Malted Buttercream, or with Nigella Lawson's Coffee buttercream, it's a winner. 


This is my April submission to the #IMK series hosted by the wonderful Sherry from Sherry's Pickings. Each month food bloggers from around the world gather to share what is new in their kitchen.  I don't buy a lot of new merchandise for my Kitchen, just mainly food ingredients, but I love cooking and baking. This is a sample of what I've been very happily cooking In My Kitchen.

Chocolate fudge Cake with Nigella Lawson's delicious Coffee Buttercream


Mr. HRK prefers Nigella's Coffee buttercream version for icing. I also love a chocolate cake with just the old-fashioned chocolate icing which is so easy and very heat tolerant. It was almost Death by Chocolate when I made the Malted Buttercream version of the Chocolate cake for Jenny's birthday recently, so delicious, chocolatey and fudgy, and slightly challenging to transport in the North Queensland heat but we made it. Buttercream needs to be refrigerated, so as soon as I iced this cake which is the photo at the top of this post, it was in our frig, and she stayed there until it was transported very carefully over to Jenny's refrigerator to be eaten for dessert that evening. Here's the link to the Chocolate Cake and Coffee Buttercream recipe, and I'll post the Malted Buttercream recipe shortly.

On a more Savoury note, I made these cheesy vegetable muffins four days ago and I am thrilled with them, not only for how they tasted when first baked, but how after being refrigerated for a few days and now being reheated in Cairns for morning tea they are still light and fluffy in texture and even more improved in flavour. If you take a look at the recipe, you will see the various vegetable combinations that are possible for these muffins.

I baked a few loaves of sourdough bread in the morning and made Herbed Mushrooms with Goats cheese for lunch which was delicious on toasted sourdough.



I found a silver Beetroot server when I was in Brisbane shopping at my favourite Antique shop in Annerley. It's perfectly designed for serving Pickled Beetroot allowing all the beetroot juices to drain through. Let's face it, beetroot juice can be very messy. Here's a batch of my Pickled beetroot which is infused with cinnamon. It was really tasty.


And on a cooler, rainy day at home I made chicken soup. Here's a photo of the stock in the soup pot.


I think of Boiled Fruit Cake as contingency baking. If there's a boiled fruit cake in the pantry or the refrigerator there's always cake on hand to have with a cuppa for surprise visitors. 
This Cherry and Brandy Fruit cake recipe makes two 20 cm cakes. One has travelled to Cairns with us, and the other one is in the refrigerator at home. It'll be there on our return. I've made this cake so many times, as whole round cakes and muffins, it's my friend Mr. P's Mothers recipe and is a real goody. 


Sometimes it's handy to have a retro recipe up your sleeve, and Salmon Rissoles or fishcakes are very retro, but these have a couple of optional surprise ingredients. Anyhow they were really good, coated in egg and breadcrumbs and pan fried and very crispy, what's not to love. Besides being tasty, retro food generally also stretches the budget, that's pretty important right now don't you think?


Those of you who know me well will be expecting a new Traybake in this edition. Here it is my friends, Moroccan Baked Chicken with Fennel and Chickpeas.  Very tasty.


Creamy French Tarragon Chicken transported me to France, which was my intention and this dish lived up to expectations. I'm hoping the airlines do the same for me in a couple of weeks. I'm off to France, to visit our son and my beautiful grandchildren, and hopefully sample some delicious French cuisine while I'm there. Did you know Cuisine is the French word for cooking? Seems obvious, doesn't it? 


Mr. HRK gave a couple of little visitors a tour of our beehive. They loved it, morning talk about bees coming up. We're hoping there will be fresh honey to harvest in Spring. Usually our bees are quite placid, no gloves needed, however they didn't appreciate being visited at 4 pm in the afternoon and were quite angry for some reason. Mr. HRK was stung twice, once on his face and on his hand. His hand really swelled up for a couple of days. Thankfully the girls were well covered and were standing right back from the hive. After all, bees are wild insects.




Gracing my daughter's dining area, is this newly acquired and endearing painting and drawing of an owl gifted to her for her birthday, by a talented friend. Aren't the eyes just full of so much expression? 


Mr. HRK picked these flowers from the garden this morning while he was pruning. Tropical flowers are just so colourful.


Hoping you have a very special, restful and meaningful Easter. Safe travels if you are travelling.

Warm wishes,
Pauline