Saturday, 15 December 2018

Dulce de Leche Banana Bread and Merry Christmas


How can any cake with Dulce de Leche, sour cream and chocolate in its list of ingredients not be absolutely delicious? This one certainly is. Dulce de Leche, made by boiling tinned condensed milk for a couple of hours  to make real caramel, lasts for ages in the refrigerator as well, as long as it is hidden from the man of the house, ha, ha. I boiled four cans of condensed milk early in September and this is the last one to be used. However it can also be purchased at gourmet deli shops. I used my largest loaf tin for this cake, the one I bake my largest loaf of sourdough bread in and it was the perfect size. That was probably the most difficult decision I had to make, otherwise this was a cinch to make.

It's holiday time, so happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone. I've really enjoyed hearing from you all during the year and reading your blogs as well. I hope you spend Christmas with the people that you love, doing the things that you enjoy, and eating the foods that comfort and excite you. I will be.

This recipe is adapted from a Delicious Magazine recipe. Thanks Delicious.

Ingredients:

Makes approx. 14 slices

2 cups (300g) plain flour, sifted
 1 1/4 cups (300g) sour cream
100 ml thickened cream
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
250g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder
50g dark chocolate chips
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup (100g) walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/3 cup (110g) dulce de leche
125g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbs espresso, cooled

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. Grease a 28 x 12 cm loaf pan (mine was a little bigger)and line the base and the sides with baking paper. (I used the largest loaf pan I own for this recipe, which is the one I bake a loaf of bread in.)



Add the sour cream, thickened cream and bicarb soda to a large bowl which will serve to mix the whole mixture.. Lightly combine this mix, and set aside for 10 minutes, when bubbles will appear through the surface.

Add the cooled melted butter, the sugar, and the beaten eggs, and stir to combine.

Stir through the cinnamon, the flour, and the baking powder.
Add the dark chocolate chips, the mashed banana, and half the walnuts.
Fold through the dulce de leche .





Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean . If it browns too quickly cover with foil, I didn't need to do this.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine the icing sugar and the espresso coffee until a soft icing forms, I didn't need to use all of the espresso to achieve the right consistency. Drizzle over the banana bread and top with the remaining crushed walnuts.This icing is so very delicious.

Until next year, stay safe.

Warmest wishes

Pauline  x



Friday, 14 December 2018

A touch of Christmas Red in our Tropical Garden



This morning the sky was blue, and the garden looking lovely, despite the ominous warnings of the impending cyclone, named Owen. However as the day has drawn on, the weather has become more sultry, the skies cloudy, and the weather forecasts are changing by the hour it seems. I think that the media drives a lot of these reports however the average person is over a barrel in determining what is actually happening, and often it is a wait and see game. We should see some weather action here  by Tuesday.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my garden turning on it's red Christmas lights, without any batteries or electricity involved, just the sun and the rain. The African Blood Lillies appeared without any fanfare and are stealing the show, and the rain has certainly helped their bulbs to multiply and produce magnificent blooms this year.

African Blood Lilly




Medinilla


Bromeliad flower


I hope you enjoy your weekend my friends. I have had enough of the shops this Christmas. I think that one of the solutions to a stress free Christmas is to stay away from the shops and shopping centres as much as possible.  All of my Christmas shopping and wrapping is done, our Christmas letter written, Christmas menu partly planned (of course), edible gifts distributed, and now I am preparing batches of Rum Balls, and whatever else I find time to do. 

I have been surprised, frustrated  and dismayed at the amount of up selling that department store staff are trying on this year with every customer. Surely this must result in overspending by many people which becomes very stressful when the credit card is due in January. No doubt the message and training is coming from upper management to shop staff to try and sell as much as possible above and beyond what the customer came into the shop for. Oh well it didn't work with me.

On the kitchen front, I made a delicious cake loaf yesterday, which I hope to share with you in the next couple of days, combining Dulce de Leche, banana, spice and all things nice. Stay tuned for that. Hopefully I will get back to blogging in the next couple of days.

Take care everyone and I hope you have Christmas preparations under control and don't feel stressed out by it all. 

Best wishes

Pauline






Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Itsy Bitsy Broccoli Bites for the holidays



With a free morning up my sleeve, I made a batch of these green goodies  for the freezer to have on hand at Christmas time. These nutritious and fun snacks are great for small children to munch on and for adults to enjoy with a cold Christmas drink. If you know you are being visited by young parents over Christmas with little people you will score some serious Brownie points if you produce these little beauties which the kids will love. They don't even realise that they are packed with nutritious green vegetables and no sugar. Finger food and vegetables are essential for healthy children and if they see us eating them as well, they will want them. The Sweet Chilli Jam on the side is strictly for adults only.

The rain has stopped for the moment leaving muggy and oppressive weather, suggesting that more rain is on it's way. The Dove orchids are coming out in bloom again, also a promise of more rain,  so hopefully they are right. According to the BOM reports Cyclone Owen will be bearing down on us this Sunday so batten down the hatches. I am trying to get all of the housework, washing etc done today knowing that over the next couple of days the wet weather could hamper our activities.

To make these little gems, I whizz the broccoli up in the food processor to save time doing all that chopping and then the rest of the ingredients just need to be mixed up, shaped into bite sized balls and put in the oven to quickly bake. So easy and just serve with Sweet chilli sauce or Sweet chilli jam for the adults,  or homemade relish or eat them unadorned! This is my version of Sarah Wilson's clever recipe. I also find it easier to grease my hands with a light layer of coconut oil when rolling them as they can get sticky.

I am putting this recipe up again as I last posted it two years ago and for some reason all of the photos disappeared. This recipe has endured the test of time.

Ingredients:

Makes 36 Bites

2-3 cups of finely chopped fresh broccoli or frozen, thawed and chopped broccoli
1 1/2 cups grated cheese ( cheddar, Parmesan or whatever you have on hand)
3 free range eggs, beaten at room temperature
1 cup flour (plain, gluten-free or almond)
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano
sea salt
olive oil, coconut oil or butter for greasing (I use coconut oil and put a little on my hands as well when rolling the balls)

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 190 deg. C.
Line two baking trays with baking paper and lightly grease the paper.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.



Roll the mixture into bite sized balls and place on the baking trays. Or spoonfuls of the mixture can just be plopped onto the tray to resemble small fritters.



Sprinkle a small amount of dried oregano or black sesame seeds onto each ball before cooking for the rustic look and for added flavour. Reserve the black sesame seed bites for the adults.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.



These will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days, or freeze for a few months.



Best wishes

Pauline





Sunday, 2 December 2018

Moroccan Chickpea Salad



Here in Mackay, in North Queensland, we are very relieved that the history making fires in our vicinity up on the Eungella range, through  Finchatton Gorge, and at Sarina Beach seem to  have been contained at last.  Last week was a horror of a week, with record high temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, strong winds and widespread fires. Nobody living in our area, ever thought that we would see such destruction in our favourite nearby natural retreats. Friends of ours and former neighbours, were evacuated from their home at Eungella last Tuesday, and came down to Mackay to live until they could return home on Saturday. Ann said it was like returning to a war zone, where not only was the former rainforest vegetation charred black, but the air traffic of helicopters dropping water bombs on the fires, and the fire crews working in the area were creating a lot of noise as well. It sounds like a version of hell. However the emergency fire crews from all over the country have done an amazing job and our local community are embracing them and showing their appreciation in as many ways as possible. What incredibly inspiring people they are. Thankfully as far as we are aware there has been only one casualty to date. One too many. Our hearts go out to all of those who continue to bear the consequences of the fires that are still burning in some areas throughout Queensland, and we are all praying for rain. Thank you to those of you who have enquired if we are ok here in Mackay City. Thankfully we are.

So with all of this heat and the shocking daily news, last week was a low key week with salads being a popular menu item. Shannon and Dan arrived on holidays, hoping to also do some camping, but unfortunately all of the local spots are closed because of the fire danger so they are exploring the beaches and sights of Mackay. Even though they live in tropical Cairns, they seem very impressed with our beautiful beaches here in Mackay, particularly Eimeo and Halliday Bay beaches where they are swimming each day.

This salad was one of the first ones I made for all of us after they arrived. This is a hearty and aromatic dish which can be served as a side dish or as an individual vegetarian meal. The spices make it stand out. Preparing and cooking food is about sharing it with family and friends and my daughter and her fiance are very appreciative to cook for which is lovely. The flavours in this salad develop beautifully if it is allowed to marinate for at least an hour. This is so easy and I know you will enjoy it if you decide to make it.

Adapted from Delicious Everyday

Ingredients:

2x400g cans Australian organic chickpeas (or use home cooked ones), rinsed and drained, or garbanzo beans
1 diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tbs. dried currants
1 preserved lemon rind only, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. ground cumin
1 tbs. sweet smoked paprika
1 tbs. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt for garnish to serve
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped for garnish to serve
Pomegranate Molasses for garnish to serve

Method:

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and add the onion, garlic, cranberries, currants, preserved lemon rind, and spices. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together to emulsify and add to the mixture. Add the soy sauce.

Toss all of the ingredients together in the large bowl, cover, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I left it for the whole day before serving, and it was delicious.

To serve, top the chickpea salad with chopped parsley. Top with the yoghurt and pistachios and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses.

For special occasions, line the bowl with baby spinach leaves and fill with chickpea salad. Unfortunately I wasn't as well organised as usual, (who am I kidding?) and didn't have any baby spinach on hand, so please just imagine that lining the bowl in the photo :)

This could also be served as a filling vegetarian meal.

Bye for now,

Best wishes

Pauline


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Curried Beef Lasagne




When I was given this recipe by my lovely friend Julia from Tropigal, I was really interested by it, as it is a fusion of Italian and Indian cooking and I was intrigued as to how the Butter chicken flavours would marry with the Lasagne, cheese and sour cream flavours. You are my valued cooking and reading friends and will know by now, that I generally don't cook with prepackaged sauces etc.,well not if I can help it.  I had told Julia during a recent conversation that sometimes when I am cooking for a large number of people it can be challenging, and not all recipes hold up well to cooking for over 12 people, which can also be quite expensive. 

A member of Julia's family cooks this recipe regularly, and as she is a good judge of what works with food I cooked it. It is so tasty and easy, and basically infallible I think. Quantities could easily be doubled. I think that more economical Butter chicken sauces could be used, with the use of dried herbs, however when in a rush this is so easy to throw together. I think this was originally a Coles recipe but I haven't seen it published.

Another reason I resorted to this recipe last week is that at the moment we are in forecast heat wave conditions here in Mackay and right up the East coast apparently, with much higher that normal temperatures expected to last for the next few days. 38 degrees tomorrow which is unbelievable. It seems inevitable that the air conditioning will need to be turned on for the first time this year. So last week I did all of the Traditional Christmas cooking before the heat strikes this week, which meant looking for easy options for cooked meals. This was one of them.

So my essential Christmas cooking each year includes my Christmas Fruit Cake, the Plum Pudding, and yesterday Mr. HRK and I made a large batch of Mango Chutney from very green common local mangoes. It was so much faster with two people peeling and cutting up the green mangoes, and processing the dates, garlic, raisins and crystallised ginger. After yesterday, I think he could make a batch on his own. I wonder if that will happen one year. It turned out very well so there will be a few bottles for gifts and the rest for family to enjoy, even with this Curried Beef Lasagne, which I have a portion of in the freezer for later on (RON). The bottles just need to be labelled and they will be relegated to the pantry.

Mango chutney starting to simmer on the outside burner

2018 batch of Mango chutney


Serves 6
Cooking time 50 minutes
Ingredients:

1 tbs vegetable oil
500g Beef mince
2 x 300g pkts The Spice Tailor Classic Butter Chicken
160 ml (2/3 cup) beef stock
1 spring onion, thinly sliced (white part only)
1 thinly sliced zucchini (or small lebanese eggplant if you prefer)
A handful of frozen peas
 1 1/4 cups (300g sour cream)
1 tsp cornflour
8 fresh lasagne sheets
1 1/4 cups (100g) finely grated parmesan
Flat leaf parsley to serve
(The zucchini, peas or eggplant are optional, but I like to include some vegetable in most dishes I cook.)

Method:

Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook the mince, stirring, for 5 minutes or until mince changes colour and is cooked through.

Stir in the spices and sauce sachets from the butter chicken packets. If you don't like chillies or like it hot, take them out.

Add the stock, zucchini and peas. Bring the mince to a simmer, and then reduce to a low heat.

Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens, vegetables are cooked and the mince is tender.

Stir in the spring onion.
Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C.


Easy Bechamel Sauce

Combine the sour cream, cornflour and 1 tbs. water in a bowl.

Grease a 1.5 Litre or 6 cup rectangular baking dish. Layer the mince mixture in the dish with lasagne sheets, sour cream mixture and parmesan until the top is reached. Cut the lasagne sheets to fit the dish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through and golden.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with some salad.



Please forgive any typos in this my friends.  This is a quick post to make this recipe accessible and the heat means I am transferring to a cooler part of the house.

Very warm wishes,

Pauline

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Banana, Chocolate and Walnut Cake



 I saw this recipe in the Weekend Australian newspaper, and you know how it is my friends, it lured me in and I had to bake it and it exceeded my expectations. It also helped that I had a few ripe bananas that I needed to use and all of the other ingredients were already in my pantry. This is a popular recipe by Nadine Ingram, who is the pastry chef at a Sydney bakery in Woolloomooloo, called "Flour and Stone", love the name.  I think that this recipe is also published in her latest book, called Flour and Stone. I haven't seen the book as yet but will be looking out for it.

There are a plethora of books coming out right now before Christmas and I am quite excited about a lot of the cooking ones. I read them like normal books, do you as well?  I saw the lovely Maeve O'Meara interviewed on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) Morning Breakfast show this week, who you probably know as the host of the SBS global cooking shows called Food Safari, which are so interesting. Her latest book based on her recent popular SBS TV series called Food Safari: Earth, Food, Water also looks like a winner. It was a very good interview as well. I am hoping that Santa might come good with a copy of either book this year, and so I will need to be very selective with what I buy for myself. Sadly I don't think Santa reads my blog to take the hint, ha, ha.

Kmart Food Safari: Earth Fire Water by Maeve O'Meara - Book

Back to the cake in hand. After demolishing two slices of this freshly baked and still warm Banana loaf, Mr. HRK said to me that this is a keeper. Noted my dear, and I will be baking it again. It's a cinch to make and also too easy to eat.



Banana, Chocolate and Walnut Loaf recipe from "Flour and Stone"

Ingredients:

200 g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour, sifted
3 (about 300g total) ripe bananas, peeled and cut into small pieces
200g good quality dark chocolate (at least 60 per cent cocoa), roughly chopped
100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons demerara sugar, for topping

Method:

Preheat your oven to 170 deg. fan forced.
Grease a large loaf tin with butter, dust with flour and set aside. To play safe you might like to line it with baking parchment.

Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugars (not the demerara) on a medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Use a hand held mixer if you are happy to do that.

Beat the eggs lightly with a fork and add gradually to the butter mix.

Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Fold the sifted flour through the mixture in the bowl, then add the banana, the chocolate and the walnuts. Mix well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle evenly with the demerara sugar. The sugar gives it a crunchy, crackling, glistening topping. Or you could ice it if you wish.

Bake for 30 minutes at 170 deg. fan forced, and then reduce the temperature to 160 deg. fan forced and bake for another 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave in the tin to completely cool. It is much easier to slice up when cool. However if you really want to serve it warm with the chocolate still a bit gooey, just leave it for 30 minutes.



The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days. In our warm weather though I would keep it in the refrigerator. I cut a few slices off as Mr. HRK was hovering to taste it, and it was morning tea time, and I have frozen most of it for later. To freeze it, you could also cut it into slices, individually wrap the slices,  and put it in the freezer for later.

Cooking Notes: 

Any other nuts can be substituted for the walnuts, in particular hazelnuts if you have them. Toasting the walnuts first makes a big difference to the taste and texture of the nut. I find that walnuts can often make a cake taste a little stale and aged, however toasting them transforms the flavour. It's such a great nut to use, and quite soft.



I always have some frozen ripe bananas in the frig ready to use for cooking. I prefer to freeze them without the skins in a ziplock bag however it doesn't matter.

Best wishes

Pauline





Friday, 16 November 2018

Make Your Own Environmentally Friendly Garden Spray



We have just visited a Mackay Plant Nursery called Country Garden's Mackay, which is new to us but has been there for over 20 years. This visit may just have changed our gardening lives. Frank the owner, is a mine of information, and could hold his own against any of the gardening gurus, including Jerry, the Brisbane gardener on Gardening Australia and maybe even Tom Wyatt from Central Queensland. We came away with  Frank's hand written recipe for an environmentally friendly and very economical garden spray, which Frank says will work on any of our plants to solve most of the pest problems we are experiencing.  There is a nasty little white fly, (not sure of the exact name  I'm sorry) which has been stinging our Pomegranate fruit, our first season, and leaving black spots all over them, stinging our cucumbers and capsicums, and will also cause a myriad of other problems if not quickly discouraged to visit our garden.



This pomegranate flower above has already been stung evidenced by the black spots. Hopefully the pomegranate fruit below will evade the little monsters.



Frank has lots of local knowledge, and knew straight away that this  flying insect is the pest which needs to be eradicated, but in a way which doesn't harm all of the other beneficial insects and the environment.

This super spray prevents mildew, rust, black spot, aphids, white flies, scale, caterpillars and grass hoppers in the nicest possible way.  Use 15 Litres of water as a basis, or  break it down to what you require.

We just halved the quantities to suit the volume of our spray.

Remember this is for your plants, and not to be consumed by humans

Franks's Garden Spray Ingredients:

15 Litres water
2 cups Full Cream milk made up (use powdered milk to be more economical)
75 ml Canola Oil
75ml Dishwashing liquid detergent
4 tablespoons Bicarbonate Soda
A dash of seaweed solution to colour it

Method:

Emulsify the Canola Oil and the Dishwashing liquid by shaking together in a large jar
Dissolve the Bicarbonate of Soda separately in warm water
Add the other ingredients to the large jar of Oil and Dishwashing Liquid and add the Bicarb of Soda to the 15 Litres of water.

Spray you garden once a week with this and you should see results and hopefully no pests or little grasshoppers eating your herbs.

Mr. HRK made up this mixture straight  away and he will always approach something like this in a different way to how I would. Whereas I would have made up the milk carefully, he just added the  powdered milk undiluted, about 1/2 cup, to the Detergent and the Oil, after it had emulsified, added the other ingredients and shook it all up. Then he added that mixture to the water. It probably doesn't matter how it's done as there is a large water base anyway. The great thing about these type of recipes is you don't need to be absolutely exact, however be careful not to overdo the Bicarbonate of Soda.


Mr. HRK and I have had a couple of unfortunate experiences with some Bunnings plant purchases lately. Generally I propagate basil from seeds in my seed bank, but knowing that would take a while and I have been running late this year, I bought a few plants from Bunnings. They have looked a bit sick from the start and have never really produced the nice fleshy leaves which is characteristic of the Sweet Basil plant. I have never had trouble growing Sweet Basil before. Despite the fact that it is probably getting a bit hot for them now, Frank said that basil plants have been carrying a fungus this year, and this is probably being transmitted all over the state with imported Southern Basil plants. Next year the Basil should be ok again. I also purchased a miniature Mulberry tree from Bunnings for Mr. HRK for his birthday present, as he loves mulberries. The leaves burnt straight away when we planted it out, and it didn't look at all well, and has only just started recovering with lots of TLC. We have also just  transplanted it back into a pot when we realised that it will only remain a miniature in a pot. They can grow very big.

We came away from  Country Garden's Mackay  realising the advantages of buying plants which are propagated or struck locally in our area, at a local nursery, and where they have already adapted to Mackay growing conditions.This will reduce the amount of stress suffered when they are replanted into our garden conditions. Australia has quite a harsh Summer, and giving plants this advantage will be much better for them. I try to propagate when I can from seeds that I have collected from our own garden, and each generation will then adapt even better to our local conditions.



Does your windowsill look like this one? My laundry windowsill faces north so is very well lit and quite warm. At the moment I am finishing the drying of coriander seeds which I picked this morning, drying chilli seeds from home grown chillis, and I am growing a celery plant in water from the base of a store bought head of celery. When the celery head has sent out a good sized shoot and has sufficient roots, I'll transplant this into the garden. I've done this a few times and as long as they are well watered they will do well.

On a more positive note, we have had success this year with our two vanilla bean orchid vines. Thankfully the pesty flies don't seem interested in them, but the black ants are. Each morning we are getting two to three new flowers on the vines, the flowers only last 24 hours, and must be pollinated in the early morning before they whither in the heat. These need to be pollinated by hand everywhere that they grow except perhaps Mexico, as the pollinating bee has unfortunately become extinct. We use a toothpick to do this and there are plenty of videos on the web on how to do it, but basically it just means pulling away the blossom petals, separating the piece of plant tissue called the rostellum, and then transferring the pollen from the male anthers to the female stigma.  You know this process  has worked when the pale creamy flower starts to whither, and a green vanilla bean can be seen growing from the flower as in the photos below.




I planted this Vanilla Orchid straight into the ground and it's climbing up the mesh covering the raised vegetable garden. It is quite a vigorous plant.

This one is an older plant and is growing on the Golden Penda tree. I bought this at a market in Bowen. There are still plenty of flower buds on this one.


Orchids are such great value. This one has been flowering for a couple of months.

Now for a food recipe. I am still preferring to eat softer foods, as my mouth is quite tender after the bone graft surgery. I'm not chewing any steak as yet. So these little quiches were delicious for brunch this weekend.  I baked them in teflon muffin trays, and this is my standard quiche recipe which cooks up well into mini quiches as well as a large quiche.



Vegetable Quiche recipe served with spicy tomato relish
Spicy tomato relish recipe
Thanks for stopping by.
Hoping you all have a nice week ahead.

Pauline