Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Pickled Cumquats

Those were the days when most backyards had a cumquat tree. Nowadays, a lot of people keep their ornamental cumquat trees in tubs on patios and verandahs, however when grown in the open in the ground, the trees flourish and provide fruit for many jars of marmalade, as well as a beautiful screen and windbreak. One of my fondest childhood memories is of the bountiful, compact cumquat tree in our backyard, and then my industrious Mother making bottles and bottles of cumquat jam which always thickened and turned out perfectly. The blossom on the tree is also highly perfumed, a magnet for bees, birds and insects alike. It is a native tree of China, and is not a perfect citrus fruit. Real citrus have 8-15 sections, whilst cumquats have only  3-6 sections. Considering its size, I'm not surprised, are you?

Cumquat marmalade on toast is synonymous with a delicious leisurely breakfast. I was given 500g of cumquats this week, so decisions decisions. How should I use them? As much as we love cumquat preserve, I wanted to try something different. Stephanie Alexander's idea of pickling cumquats enticed me, as she says that then after several weeks of pickling, these little gems can be used to flavour a roast chicken or duck beautifully, and a tablespoon of the vinegar can be used to deglaze the baking dish before adding a glass of wine for stock.The cumquats and the juices can also be made into a cumquat butter, and frozen until ready for use. I have to wait several weeks now for the pickling to process, and then I can start experimenting with my pickled cumquats. I am pretty excited about doing something really different with them. If I manage to track down some more cumquats this season at the markets, I will brandy them, so I am really hoping that will eventuate as well.  

Have you pickled or brandied cumquats before or do you prefer to make marmalade? The good thing about working with cumquats is that they only require a good wash and don't need to be peeled before using them.


500 g cumquats, washed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cinnamon
600 ml water
150 g castor sugar
1 teaspoon cloves
600 ml white wine vinegar


Dissolve salt in water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over cumquats in a bowl and stand for 12 hours. Drain.

Simmer sugar and spices in vinegar until sugar has dissolved. Simmer a further 5 minutes. Carefully pack cumquats into a hot sterilised jar, then pour in boiling vinegar syrup and seal. Store in a cool place. Leave for several weeks before using. Both the pickling syrup and the cumquats can be used.

Thanks for dropping by, 
Best wishes, 


Thursday, 2 July 2020

In My Kitchen - July 2020

I've been doing a lot of cooking this past week, as we have had a succession of visitors here since Friday. It's great to see Queensland travellers on the move in Queensland, travelling North up the East coast to Cairns, soaking up our sunshine, although yesterday was rainy, but that's okay. In addition to three lots of visitors, including my brother and sister-in-law, we had 11 friends from our tennis group for dinner on Friday  night, and then my Mahjong ladies were here Tuesday afternoon for cake and Mahjong, in that order, ha, ha. It was a lovely afternoon, with the lorikeets putting on a dazzling display around our bird bath.

Malaleucas, Golden Pendas  and Fiddlewood trees are flowering in our suburb right now so lots of birds are dropping in for some much needed hydration and a bath.

 I cooked a double quantity of Chilli Con Carne and it fed everyone on Friday night, and then we ate the leftovers with 3 Brisbane friends on Sunday night. There was plenty of it. My daughter gave me this recipe, one of her favourites, which she cooks in her pressure cooker, and I have given you those pressure cooker instructions  if you are confident cooking that way. It does save  lot of time for very busy people. However I only cooked the kidney beans in the pressure cooker, and cooked the minced beef on the stove top. It is a cinch to make, tasty and not too spicy, and goes a long way. The Chorizo sausage and the Speck take this dish to a whole new level combining lots of earthy flavours.

Pressure Cooker Chilli Con Carne
2 cups (400 g) dried red kidney beans (or 1 can of kidney beans)
3 small brown onions
1 dried bay leaf
1.5 litres (6 cups) water
150 g (4 1/2 ounces) speck, chopped finely
1 cured chorizo sausage (170 g) chopped finely
400 g (12 1/2 ounces) minced ground beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
2 cups (560 g) bottled tomato pasta sauce or homemade tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

  1. Place beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight. Rinse under cold water and drain.
  2. Combine beans, one of the onions, bay leaf and the water in a 6 litre (24 cup) pressure cooker and secure the lid. Bring cooker to high pressure. Reduce heat to stabilise pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Release pressure using the quick release method according to your pressure cooker, and remove the lid. Drain the beans reserving 1 1/2 cups (375 mls) cooking liquid ; discard onion and bay leaf. 
  3. Finely chop remaining onions. Cook speck and chorizo in cooker pot until browned. Add onion, cook stirring until onion softens. Add beef; cook stirring until browned. Add garlic and spices; cook stirring until fragrant. Return beans to cooker with sauce, oregano and reserved cooking liquid. Season to taste. 
  4. Bring cooker to high pressure. Reduce heat to stabilise pressure,cook 8 minutes. Release pressure using the quick release method, and remove the lid. Stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve chilli con carne with sour cream and sprinkled with coriander.

Chilli Con Carne

Cooking the Chilli Con Carne in a frypan on the stovetop is very similar to cooking it in the pressure cooker, but without the pressure, and it takes a bit longer. I cooked the dried kidney beans in the pressure cooker, or you could just use 1 can of kidney beans instead. Much easier.

Finely chop remaining onions. Cook speck and chorizo in frypan until browned. Add onion, cook stirring until onion softens. Add beef, cook stirring until browned. Add garlic and spices; cook stirring until fragrant. Add beans to frypan with sauce, oregano and reserved cooking liquid. Season to taste.

I quickly made a delicious fresh salad to go with it. You can find my recipe for this salad here. Every time I make it, it is slightly different depending on what I have on hand, but it is always colourful and delicious. Mangoes aren't in season so there are no mangoes in this one below.

This vintage cake tin belonged to my mum and now proudly sits in my kitchen. It has been so useful to store cakes, bread and whatever else I might need to store away.

It has been difficult until the last week or so to buy rye flour which I use for bread making so I have been buying it in bulk when I find it. This flour tin, also vintage,  was resurrected from the cupboard and is now being put to good use to store rye flour. All of these items can still be found when rummaging though antique stores in country towns and cities.

Last week Mr.. HRK and I watched an amazing show on Australian ABC television, called Australia's Ocean Odyssey: a journey down the East Australian Current. There were three parts to the series, and lots of beautiful images from the show are available on Youtube. The photography was exceptional. The last episode featured lovely Lord Howe Island and the fatal impact that plastic in the oceans is having on the native bird life on the island. To see juvenile birds dying because their little stomachs are full of bits of plastic, not  just plastic bags, which the adult birds feed them thinking it is food, was very disturbing and really hit home the message for humans to stop discarding waste plastic which ends up in our oceans in all shapes and sizes. Lord Howe island is an incredibly environmentally aware and sustainable island which hosts many native animals and bird species that will become extinct if plastic pollution in our oceans continues the way it is going.

Honey, Yoghurt, and Chocolate Cake

On a sweeter note though, we were very fortunate to visit Lord Howe Island three years ago for their annual Food and Wine Week, at Pinetrees Lodge. It was an important wedding anniversary for us. Afternoon tea was served each day at the Lodge and we always made sure we were there in time for that occasion. Last Tuesday I made a Honey, Yoghurt and Chocolate Cake which was one of the cakes Pinetrees served us for afternoon tea. The first time I baked this, I used Tasmanian Leatherwood honey which was too strong for this cake. For the Mahjong cake,  I used honey from our backyard beehive and the cake was absolutely delicious. Here is the link to the recipe and a photo. The cake can be served with ice cream or yoghurt for dessert, but for afternoon tea I dusted it with icing sugar and decorated it with Nasturtium flower petals.

I also love this cookbook we were given as part  of the package for attending Pinetrees Lodge Food and Wine Week.

I  baked some chocolate Afghan biscuits over the weekend, which were delicious. Have you heard of them? My friend Chris baked them to have with coffee instead of Anzac biscuits back in April and I hadn't heard of them. It's a New Zealand recipe. I've been meaning to make them ever since. I'll put that recipe up soon.

I cooked Syrup Ginger Cake for Friday Night dessert, laced with slices of homemade Tropical Stem Ginger, and flavoured with beautiful warming spices including our homemade dried ginger. I didn't ice it this time but drizzled fresh ginger syrup all over the surface. It's always delicious and perfect for a chilly night. Leftovers were very nice to enjoy over the weekend.

Today, it's simple cooking my friends, and my classic zucchini and bacon slice using our home grown zucchinis is about to go in the oven. Its a cinch to make and a real classic.

It's also been bread making day, so a couple of sourdough rye loaves were proofing in their tins this morning and we had freshly cooked bread by lunchtime.
One loaf to be sliced for the freezer, the other for eating over the next few days.
Fresh out of the oven
This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Sherry's Kitchen, I hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks for dropping by and please have an enjoyable weekend.,

Warm wishes,


Thursday, 18 June 2020

Golden Pumpkin, Zucchini, and Olive Loaf

With the weekend almost here, I want to share with you an idea for Sunday brunch, or brekkie if you are out of bed on a cold Winter's morning, or even lunch.  Those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere and coasting into a balmy summer, will be enjoying a breakfast in the golden sunshine hopefully. This is a nutritious vegetarian loaf for everyone which provides a blank but tasty canvas for a myriad of toppings, or for none at all if that's your preference.  Whatever you fancy really and it is a very pushy recipe. If you can reign in a cheffy apprentice from somewhere to grate the pumpkin for you that will cut your preparation time. I tried grating chopped pieces in my food processor but that didn't really work, but  a good firm pumpkin is very easy to grate, just watch those fingers. I always use my food processor to grate the zucchinis though, much safer.

Half a Kent (Jap) pumpkin
The knife in the top photo has had an interesting evolution and probably shudders now when it is close to a pumpkin. The blade used to be much longer with a pointed tip as with a normal carving knife, that is before I tried cutting into a large, very firm Jap pumpkin with it. The blade snapped, thankfully with no injuries incurred, and with Mr. HRK nearby to the rescue he extricated the knife and blade from the pumpkin for me. No harm done. I must say that this all happened about 6 months ago, well before his hand accident. He then reshaped, sharpened and tidied up the blade,  and now it is such a useful knife with a very strong blade. Great for cutting pumpkins. I love buying a whole large pumpkin with a lot of potential, but cutting that first slice requires some care and muscle.

Such a tasty little morsel on my breakfast tray
 Feed this loaf to your family and they will also be eating lots of nutritious ingredients and vegetables without even realising it. Carrot can be substituted for the zucchini, and Mr. HRK suggested adding some blue cheese to the ingredients, wonderful with a cheese platter and a glass of good red. I'll try that next time I make it. Even though this loaf tastes really light, the mixture needs to be cooked well and nicely browned as it is a big loaf. This is based on the wonderful Maggie Beer's recipe from her Recipe for Life cookbook, and I have added a few extra ingredients for a little added flavour.  I'm not a big salt eater, but I thought it needed a little extra salt, so I have added a small amount and a pinch of salt bush flakes from the Australian outback, just because I have them.


Serves 8-10

80 g black olives, pitted, make it 100g if you really like olives
3 cups (375 g) coarsely grated pumpkin (I like to use a Jap or Kent pumpkin)
1 cup (135 g) coarsely grated zucchini
3 tablespoons unhulled tahini
5 free range eggs
70 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (240 g) ground almonds
1 cup (90 g) organic rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/4 teaspoon (pinch) salt bush flakes (optional)


Preheat the oven to 165 deg. C (fan-forced). Grease and line  a 13 cm x 23 cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Place the olives in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl.

To the bowl add the pumpkin, zucchini, tahini, eggs and olive oil. Mix and combine well.

In a separate bowl, combine the ground almonds, salt, thyme, salt bush flakes, rolled oats, baking powder and nutmeg.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then pour into the prepared tin. Scatter the pumpkin seeds over the top and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the tin.

Serve warm or leave to cool completely.Slices of this freeze beautifully, so cut into 1.5 cm thick slices and freeze in portions in zip-lock bags. We love it toasted.

The toppings to eat with this loaf are only limited by your imagination.  Serve it toasted for breakfast or brunch topped with avocado and eggs of your choice ( poached, scrambled, or fried).

I enjoyed it one morning for brekkie with sliced banana on top, and Maggie  Beer suggests ricotta and sliced tomato. If you like hummus, add some rocket leaves and you have a fast and healthy snack, or just serve it warm with butter. It is also very tasty served with my homemade spicy tomato relish as a topping. Yum! If you have some pumpkin tucked away in your crisper, do you think you would like this recipe?

Eat well my friends and I hope you have a relaxing and safe weekend.

Warm wishes


Monday, 15 June 2020

In My Kitchen, June 2020

It's a very special day In My Kitchen today as our beautiful twin Grandchildren, Finn and Evie, who live in the Falkland Islands, turn 1 year old, such a milestone for our babies that started out in the world quite premature. Our day started at 7 am with a birthday video call to our son and his family and the children in the Falkland Islands. Mr. HRK thankfully, even after his hand accident a week ago, can still make a really good cup of coffee so first of all we had a coffee from our Rancilio coffee machine. Needless to say we don't go out for coffee, even though restrictions are lifting here in Queensland thankfully, and 20 people are now allowed in coffee shops at the same time. That number could change again for tomorrow though, but it's reassuring to see businesses in Queensland starting to operate again.

This Emu coffee mug (or perhaps its a Cassowary being Far North Queensland) is also very special to me as my daughter bought it for me for my birthday last year, when we were travelling up to Cairns in Far North Queensland, through a delightful but very rainy little town called Tully. We stopped at a nice little florist and cafe in the main street of Tully and did a spot of shopping as well. The happy bird is always smiling at me.

The twins had their very own iced birthday cakes flavoured with orange in their home this morning made by a beautiful Italian chef in Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands, and yes they had a small piece each, which they demolished very quickly. So that we could truly be part of the celebration I made my Pumpkin, Orange and Prune cake which featured in a recent blog post of mine. We enjoyed that one so much last time that I decided to make it again. We lit the candles, sang happy birthday again which the twins rocked to and it was lovely.

After making this cake, I still had half a pumpkin left, so I made a Pumpkin, zucchini and olive loaf using grated pumpkin and zucchinis from our garden, which was really delicious. We enjoyed it toasted with a variety of toppings such as avocado, banana, cooked eggs or even hummus. So versatile. Recipe to follow soon hopefully. The butter dish in the photo was my Mum's and has a matching lid. It works really well.

Those of you who regularly read what I write, and thanks so much to you all and to your feedback which I really value, might remember my recipe for delicious Lemon Tapioca Pearl Pudding, where I was questioning whether or not sago could now be found anywhere as it's not available anymore in supermarkets where I live. It was always Lemon Sago pudding when I was growing up, and I suppose I feel a bit of food traitor cooking it now by using tapioca.

Lemon Tapioca Pearl Pudding with some vintage utensils of mine
So I went on a research mission into Downtown Mackay to the Indian Supermarket, the Asian/Italian Supermarket and the Bulk Foods Store, and a couple of cafes, and had a lovely morning discovering all kinds of interesting potential cooking products, where the best bulk foods are sold, and kitchen utensils. Hallelujah,  I found many packets of Sago seed (Sabudana) in the Indian Supermarket. So yes very soon I will be making the real Lemon Sago pudding from the real sago now sitting in my pantry. The sago seeds are twice the size of the tapioca seed, so the proof will be in the pudding as to which works best. A blogger friend of mine said that this is an old fashioned pudding, and yes it is, but it is delicious, and everything old is new again.

Finally, I have a new sourdough bread making book acquisition (sorry library talk, I can't help myself) that I have been waiting for, for ages, just delivered today. The mail has been so slow hasn't it? Not that I do much online shopping, but so many shops and the libraries have been closed, and it seemed safer to order online. I can't wait to read it. I am quite happy with my sourdough bread making, but would like to learn more. I hope this will inspire me to get back to it, and try a few new things.

We have started harvesting zucchinis from our garden, just enough for our use at present which is great. This one below, one of the first, we measured at 30 cm, nearly 1 foot long, as we  didn't see it on the plant until it was quite big. They taste so fresh and delicious and can be eaten raw.

Just outside my Kitchen, a bowl of madarins picked off our tree. This cattleya orchid of mine has been in flower for over a month, and whilst it is now fading slightly still has a beautiful fragrance.

Planted from seed, Pak Choy make delicious eating in a stir fry or just blanched. It's a race to pick them though before the grubs claim them for themselves. Footy season has started minus the crowds, and you can see which NRL team we barrack for by Mr. HRK's mug. Of course, we are Northerners.

Is it an aging thing or what? I now seem to love marmalade on toast. This 3 fruit marmalade was gifted to us by our friend Lulu, and it is delicious. Of course I love our fresh honey on toast as well.

I use so many eggs in the kitchen, that I have started keeping the eggshells in a bowl and crushing them up all at once when they have dried, for the compost heap. The worms love that they are already crushed up for them.

Mr. HRK is recovering well after his accident with the table saw last week, and thank you to those of you who sent kind messages. I saw this sign in the hospital, and think it is a great idea, whether you are healing or not. Our brains need a break.

That's it folks, I hope you have enjoyed my kitchen story. I felt a bit flattened as well after Mr. HRK had his accident, but we are starting to bounce back and he is being very patient with not being able to do all of the  things he normally can. Candle making from our very own beeswax is in this week's plan. Watch this space.

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series for June hosted by the lovely Sherry from Sherry's Pickings.

Thanks for dropping by, hope you have time to relax,  and have a great week.


Monday, 8 June 2020

How to make your own Quince Paste "Membrillo"

Dear Readers, Please allow me to introduce a fellow foodie and good friend, Mr. Paul S. who every Winter provides us with a welcome gift of his Quince Paste, and then little batches sometimes come our way during the year as well, proving that it keeps refrigerated in the tropics very well.  He has been doing this for a few years now, that I know of. The quality is always exceptional and as I have plenty for our use and don't need to make any more, I have asked Paul to be  a guest writer on my blog this week. I have complete faith in this recipe and he enjoys writing about food as well.

(Paul). As an avid follower of Pauline's blog, I am honoured to be invited to be her guest on the Happy Retirees Kitchen blogspot. Towards the end of each autumn I search the markets and greengrocers for one of my favourite fruits, one in short supply in the tropics - the humble quince. I first came upon quince paste on a cheese platter, a "Maggie Beer" product that was perfect with King Island Brie!  Subsequently, in Spain, I found large blocks of the same "membrillo", which they used to sweeten stews and curries. I love it on a cracker with any soft cheese, any blue cheese, any cheese in fact.

Below is a photo of crates of quinces taken by Paul at a market in Fes in Northern Morocco where he and Mrs. S were on holiday last year. Morocco is truly quince land.

This is a very simple recipe, but not an easy one to make. Quinces are initially extremely hard, so peeling and coring the yellow fruit are a chore. As the peeled fruit discolours easily, keep your sliced quinces in water. The fruit has to be softened by boiling - it is rock hard to begin with! Once the sugar is added, the mixture requires regular stirring for around three hours! You keep stirring until the thick mixture is a deep red in colour, and all the water has been evaporated.

Quince paste makes a welcome gift, as Mrs. HRK can attest!



8 quinces (peeled, cored, and chopped)

Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of water
5 cups of sugar


Place the chopped quinces, water and lemon juice in a large heavy based saucepan/pot. Place on high heat to steam the fruit. When the quinces are soft, use a stick blender to blitz to a slurry. Add the sugar and start stirring, continuing regularly to ensure the sweet mixture does not stick to the bottom.

After the quinces have turned to the bright red colour, pour the mixture into a cake tin or similar, cool, and then refrigerate into a firm block which, kept in the fridge, will provide for 12 months of cheese platters.

Photo 1: The quinces have softened, the blender has liquefied the fruit, and the sugar has been added.

Photo 2: After an hour of stirring, the mixture has started to gain colour around the edges and base.

Photo 3: The beautiful red colour has finally arrived, after all that interminable stirring

Photo 4: In a cake tin or mould, your quince paste is ready to cool and refrigerate

If you have read to the end of Paul's quince cooking journey, and I thank him for doing this, I have to tell you it's been an interesting few days.

 This post for me will always be tinged with a little shock and drama. As I was almost finished loading this story and ready to post at 5 pm on Saturday, Mr. HRK appeared at the door holding his hand upright, rather pale, and said "I've hurt myself and it's serious." I had heard him using the table saw in his shed but that happens frequently as he is a DIY kind of guy. You never know how you are going to react in this situation do you? However I managed to dial 000, the ambulance paramedics came, he was taken to hospital emergency,  and by the time I was allowed to see him, two fingers on his left hand, index and third finger had been cleaned and bandaged up, and he had charmed all the nurses.

 He had surgery on his hand Sunday morning,  and recovered well. He has managed to damage the bone on his index finger and that finger has now been amputated to just above the knuckle and the finger next to it is damaged but just has to heal. After all these years of his constructing so many projects in his shed using a variety of equipment, this shows it can happen to anyone. He is home now, and life will be pretty quiet for him now for a while as his hand heals. It could have been a lot worse. The paramedics and the staff of the Mackay Base Hospital have been absolutely wonderful and we are so thankful for that. It's life in the slow lane now for us for a while.

Thanks for dropping by,