Wednesday, 5 May 2021

In My Kitchen - May 2021

It's citrus season, and Dried Mandarins feature in this edition of the May IMK. Where did April go? And now that it's May, the weather here in the Tropics of North Queensland is cooling down so we are spending a lot more time in the garden preparing the garden beds for Winter planting, and also it is really a pleasure now to be preparing delicious food in the kitchen. 

A lot of the activity in my kitchen this last month and in Mr. HRK's workshop, has been centred around the mandarin fruit. The branches of our mandarin tree in the front garden have been sagging to the ground with the weight of the mandarins it is producing. Even though they hadn't ripened, and are only just starting to ripen now, we needed to pick some of those mandarins to ease the load off the tree, and then find  a way to use them, as well as give a lot to friends. We also needed to find a way to preserve them. Did you know that even though the skin of the mandarin fruit is still green, the fruit can be ripe enough to eat, and in fact be very juicy and delicious? It takes a cold snap in the weather, which we are really still waiting for, for the skins to change colour. We also don't have a clue what variety of ,mandarin this tree is. 

When my Mum passed away on the 13th May, 13 years ago, just after Mother's Day, my Aunty Mary, my Mum's stepsister, gave me a mandarin tree to plant in memory of Mum, a lovely and very thoughtful idea. That was in 2008, so the mandarin tree is 13 years old, and this is the best crop it has yielded. This is all very special to me as my Mum would have been 100 years old this year. During those 13 years due to the tree's lack of interest in producing fruit, Mr. HRK  has threatened it, cajoled it, fed it, watered it, but not hugged it, however something has worked because this year it has excelled itself, just when seriously it was under threat of  being faced with it's demise. Because of it's sentimental value to me, of course I have protected it, or it might have met it's sad end a few years ago, but it just shows that trees have feelings and after 13 years it is coming into its own, a late bloomer. Sadly Aunty Mary is also no longer with us either, but I will let my cousins know this story. We never found out what the variety of this mandarin is. But it is a large fruit, thin skinned, with very few seeds and very sweet. If you have any clues as to what it is I would love to hear from you. Anyway it has adapted to living in the tropics, like all of us.

These are the fruit just starting to colour up. There are a few green ant nests in the tree as well just for added value.

This is the mighty mandarin tree in our front yard  surrounded by some tropical colour; Coleus, Ixora, a Desert Rose, purple ground Orchids, Geraniums and the large leafed exotic Caladium with a pink heart. Around the  base of the tree is well cleared though as it needs to be.

And bucket loads to give away.

However when we started thinking about how to preserve some of them, Mr. HRK was very keen to experiment with dehydrating them. So the dehydrator moved into his workshop to work away quietly during the night, and off  we started. Well the good news is that they are delicious dehydrated, and will keep bottled and well sealed in a cool place for 12 months. For the first batch we tried, we left the skins on the fruit when we sliced them up, however because the skin was still green, the fruit tasted quite tart when dried. However if you can dry them with the golden skin still on the fruit they will look very pretty, even prettier than mine:)  I hope that enough fruit will survive the bugs and not become stung by fruit fly before they ripen enough to pick them, so we can dry some more with the skin on. That was another reason why we were fearful about leaving the fruit on for too long, as the fruit fly wreak havoc on citrus in our part of the world. We try to spray with eco friendly sprays and hang bottles of various concoctions from the tree guaranteed to repel the bugs but some fruit still gets stung. 

This was our second batch where Mr. HRK removed the skins, and sliced the mandarins as finely as he could, and then dried them in our dehydrator overnight.

Then I decided to sprinkle a spice rub over the next batch before drying for some extra flavour, which took them to another level, and this photo below is the result. We have taste tested them on friends, and I recommend this method to you for oranges and mandarins. Bottle them up, label them, enjoy them at home, and they will also be delicious edibles to give as gifts. I still need to print off some labels, but they look really nice bottled in jars. 

 We are now sprinkling the mandarins over our cereal in the morning as well. We also dried some pineapple slices which is more popular and commercially available for sale than the mandarin, and we think it's delicious as well, and great for a snack if you are travelling.


Here's the very simple  recipe for the spice rub that I used.

SPICE RUB FOR DRIED MANDARINS

Ingredients:

4 large mandarins or oranges thinly sliced

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

large pinch of sea salt

Method:

Fruit can be dried in the oven or in a dehydrator or even in the sun. Using the dehydrator is an easy way to do it as it can work overnight, and if not quite dry enough in the morning, then adjusted by the hour until the fruit is just right.

Wash and dry your fruit, then cut them into very thin slices, (as thin as possible)

Mix the spices and the sugar in a bowl and sprinkle evenly over the mandarins or oranges

Layer them on dehydrator trays, or if you want to use your oven, dry them on trays lined with baking paper at 200 deg. F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. They may take longer.

We were using two dehydrators by this stage.

When dried, they can be stored in ziplock bags, or in bottles. Store them in a cool, dry place and they should store well for 12 months. In my neck of the woods, the humidity can cause problems, so they need to be packaged as soon as possible.

Dried mandarin or orange slices can also be added to decorate a cocktail, a fruit shrub, or any drink really. There are endless possibilities to how they can be used, only limited by our imagination. The flavour is really developed by the drying process.

The other day, whilst I was cooking a chook with stuffing in the oven for lunch, I made a Banana Sultana cake and to save time and electricity, I baked it in the oven with the chook. The cake was delicious, so was the chook by the way. I used some dried mandarin to decorate the top of the cake before baking. The dried fruit browned off a little too much for my taste when it was cooked, however it didn't take away from the overall success of the cake at all. This cake was just so delicious straight out of the oven that I will definitely be baking it again. I can't see any reason not to add both walnuts and sultanas if I have the ingredients on hand. This is a photo of my cake before it went into the oven.

Here is the recipe, which just happened to be on the back of a Sunbeam sultanas packet. I think the sugar content could be halved if you are watching calories, and this would still be to your taste.

Banana Sultana Loaf

Ingredients:

70 g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

1 cup sultanas

2 tablespoons milk

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.

Grease and line the base of a loaf tin, mine measured 22 cm x 12 cm and was perfect

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, add the beaten egg, and then add in the bananas one at a time

Add the flour, sultanas and the milk and stir by hand to combine

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. AT the end of the cooking time, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean it is cooked.

Cool in the tin and then slice to serve while it is still warm and enjoy. 

When I was growing up and still living in my family home, I remember  that this kind of cake was often served warm and with butter spread on it, gosh we were naughty back then weren't we, but it was so very good.

If you read my blog regularly, you will already know that I play Mahjong once a week, and as well as having the fun of playing Mahjong with friends, we also enjoy some delicious cake at each others homes. This week was my turn to host Mahjong, and I made my Ginger Syrup cake, which is a recipe I really enjoy making, and this time I decorated it with a slice of the dried mandarin. The ladies really enjoyed it. The cake recipe is now being distributed to all the Mahjongers. You can find it at this link. The flavours of the spice rub and the intense ginger flavour of the cake complimented each other perfectly, all enhanced by the wonderful espresso coffee  made by our barista for the afternoon, Mr. HRK.



This month we also enjoyed cooking up a Turkish Feast on Anzac Day, always the 25th April, and if you missed that, here is the link.

The weather here has plummeted to 14 degrees this morning, so a pot of my healthy and delicious Green coconut cheesy soup is on the stove right now, ha, ha. Bring on soup weather.

Well that's it from me for this edition of In My Kitchen. This is part of the IMK event hosted globally by Sherry from Sherry's Pickings, where lots of bloggers participate to showcase the highlights of what they have been doing in their kitchens for the month.

Take care, and thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes,

Pauline






Thursday, 29 April 2021

A Turkish Feast - Lamb Kofta, Bazlama (Turkish flat bread), Tabbouleh, a simple Turkish salad, and Baklava

Eating fresh and healthy food has never been more important for everyone given the Covid epidemic still looming on our doorstep, and the change of season to Winter in the Southern Hemisphere anyway.  I've been taking note, and I've noticed that now more than ever before, a lot more men, younger and older, professional, hard working or retired, are doing their share of the cooking for their partners, families or themselves, as a lot of women are at work as well and the guys have discovered that they enjoy cooking. Guys, this style of cooking is for you, and a great meal to plan for the weekend. And of course ladies I know that many of you just like me, love to eat lots of simple fresh salads and vegetables and these are the mainstay of a healthy diet and a Turkish menu like this one.

*If you wish, go straight to the recipes at this link with a minimum of photos:*

When we were planning this Turkish style food feast, Mr. HRK volunteered straight away to make the Turkish flatbread, because he knows it requires much the same technique as making pizza dough which he likes to do, but Bazlama, can be cooked very quickly on the BBQ. He found the recipe, which worked perfectly and looked exactly like the Turkish bread we ate in Turkey and tasted just as good. He used a pizza stone for the cooking, which is an off cut from our granite kitchen bench. I prepared the kofta mince, the day before, let it rest in the frig in a bowl overnight and threaded them onto the skewers on the day we ate them. Once again, these were cooked on the BBQ plate by Mr. HRK and were delicious.  I've given you some salad choices, but I discovered when we ate this with friends that if the kofta is to be eaten in the flatbread, all that is required is a tangy yogurt sauce, a delicious tabbouleh, and a simple salad of iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped cucumber, a few chopped herbs of your choice and some crumbled feta. A dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and you can be eating vicariously in Istanbul, but much more safely. 

However if you or members of your family are watching what you eat, and not eating bread, then kofta and salad is also delicious eaten in Cos lettuce leaves, packed with the flavour but not the bread calories.So many options with this casual but very tasty way to eat. 

We started our Turkish feast with some homemade Turkish dips,  Pumpkin hummus, Baba Ganoush, (my recipe), and Beetroot Hummus, eaten with my sourdough Cob loaf baked the day before. Mr. P makes wonderful dips.

Bazlama, Turkish Flat Bread

Here's the recipe for the best Turkish Flat bread we have tasted, and can be cooked simply on the BBQ plate in your own home. In Turkey it is normally cooked in an outdoor oven, but it works just as well on the stove top in a cast iron pan.  It is best served warm if you can. Mr. HRK found this recipe at https://www.allrecipes.com, 04/25/2021. 

Ingredients:

Firstly the Cooks note: This recipe makes 4 large flatbreads, however if you prefer them smaller like pita bread,  cut the dough into 8 portions. 

If you can't find Greek style yoghurt, use regular yoghurt and reduce the water  in the recipe to 1 1/4 cups.

The flatbreads also make crispy and delicious bases for pizza. The smaller ones are excellent as pita or pocket breads.

Use plenty of plain flour when you are rolling out the flatbreads to prevent them sticking to the bench, and use a floured rolling pin

Ingredients:

(No oil needed to cook)

4 cups Plain Flour 

1 sachet (7 grams or .25 ounce) active dry yeast 

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C, if you are pedantic, we're not)

1/2 cup Greek-style yoghurt

1 tablespoon white sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt (the original recipe used 1 tablespoon but we thought it was slightly too salty, up to you)

Method:

1. Dissolve the yeast, sugar and salt in a small bowl with the warm water. Add the water and the yoghurt to the flour and mix well. The dough will be nice and soft but not sticky. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench and shape it into a ball. 

Now cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rise at room temperature for 3 hours. ( We place ours in the warm laundry, where our hot water system happens to be, and close the door, and it sure did rise!)

2. Cut the dough into four triangular portions. Shape the dough into rounds and flatten each round on a well floured bench as though you are making pizza dough. We flattened ours out further with a floured rolling pin so that it was a larger and thinner flatbread and it was perfect.

3. To cook your flatbread, choose either the BBQ or a cast iron skillet. As Mr. HRK was cooking, he chose to use a pizza stone in the BBQ, which worked like a dream. Preheat the BBQ or stove to a medium-heat. Place one round of dough on the BBQ or skillet and bake until the brown spots on the bottom, about 1 minute. Flip the bread and bake for another minute. Remove the bread and wrap it up in a clean tea towel to keep warm. We separated them with baking paper like you do with pancakes in case they stuck together with humidity around, but it really wasn't necessary.


Puffing up on the plate, before it flattens out with a pocket inside.

Yoghurt Sauce ( makes the delicious difference with Kofta)

1 cup yoghurt

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper

Method:

Combine the ingredients, leave in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes for the flavours to infuse. (I left mine overnight which is preferable if you have the time.)

Lamb Kofta eaten with Lettuce Wraps or Turkish Flatbread

The beauty of making Koftas, is that I had most of the herbs and spices already in my spice drawer. I just needed to buy fresh mint and coriander, however at a pinch if time is at a premium, you could use all dried herbs and spices. 

Ingredients:

(It's easy to just double this recipe if you are cooking for a crowd)

Olive oil for frying the kofta on the BBQ

400-500g lamb mince (ground)

1/2 onion, grated

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground coriander + (2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, optional)

1 tablespoon dried mint or 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons mild paprika

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes if you like a bit of heat

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves finely chopped 

8 large Cos (romaine) lettuce leaves or Turkish flatbread to serve

Method:

Use your hands to knead together the lamb mince and the spices, garlic, breadcrumbs,  lemon zest, mint and coriander until all well blended together (all the ingredients.) 

Divide into 8 portions and roll into football shaped ovals with your hands. Put them on a plate in the fridge and cover. This can be done the day before, or on the same day while you make the salad.

Ready for the BBQ Cook

Thread the koftas onto metal skewers or bamboo ones that have been pre-soaked in water to prevent burning. Heat the oiled BBQ plate (or your chargrill pan or frying pan) on high and add the koftas and cook 3-4 minutes. Don't move them until a crust develops, then turn over and cook each side. Remove from the heat.

Sizzling on the BBQ

Cover with foil, and rest for 5 minutes and then serve to your hungry family and guests.

To assemble the Turkish Flatbread,  place a spoonful or two of the yoghurt on the Turkish bread and spread over the bread, then add spoonfuls of the salads, then the kofta. Enclose the ends of the bread and roll to enclose. I'm sure your guests will know what to do anyway. 

To assemble the kofta in lettuce leaves, place a spoonful of yoghurt onto each lettuce leaf, add a spoonful of salad or tabbouleh, and top with a kofta. Fold the lettuce around the filling and eat.

Tabbouleh with Yoghurt Sauce and Lettuce Wraps

Tabbouleh recipe (from a previous post of mine):

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rinsed quinoa (tri-colour for impact if you like), or wholemeal couscous
150 ml chicken stock for extra flavour, (just water will also work well)
1 Lebanese cucumber, deseeded and diced
3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1 cm dice (I used 4 Roma tomatoes)
3 spring onions, green ends only, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, or about 1/2 bunch, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (not the stuff out of the bottle)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Add a crushed garlic clove if you like, but not necessary
*A large avocado cut into 1 cm dice can replace the cucumber


Method:

If using quinoa:- 
Place the stock in a small saucepan, add the quinoa and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender to taste. Remove from the heat,and stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and leave it to cool.

If using couscous:- Place the stock in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add the stock to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or something plastic free (preferably), to store the heat, and stand for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff it up and to separate the grains. Season it slightly to your taste, and set it aside until cool.

Gather the bunch of parsley, form into a tight bundle in your hand and finely shred the leaves with a sharp knife.

Do the same thing with the mint leaves.

My coriander in our raised garden is still growing well, so a little bit of that went into the salad as well.

Add the cooled grain, quinoa or couscous to the rest of the ingredients, and mix through gently.




Making The Salad dressing:

In a smallish bowl, gradually whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice and garlic (if using) until it starts to thicken slightly and emulsifies. Stir the dressing through the tabbouleh ingredients and season with a little salt and ground black pepper if it needs it. A little salt will really develop the flavours.

On a nutritional note, eating salads like tabbouleh is a healthy alternative, as the herbs, parsley, and mint are rich in sources of Vitamin K and C, some beta-carotene, folate and flavonoids.  I feel better already.

Simple Turkish Salad:

1/2 an Iceberg lettuce

Two large ripe tomatoes

65 g or 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Handful of fresh herbs, preferably marjoram or oregano washed and chopped.

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

40 g chopped pistachios or toasted hazelnuts with skins removed 

Method:

Remove the outer leaves of an iceberg lettuce, pull off enough lettuce leaves to line your bowl when cut  fairly finely. 

Wash the leaves and dry. 

Shred them and place them loosely in the base of your bowl. Chop two large ripe tomatoes and place on top of the lettuce.

Add half the fresh herbs, then the cheese then the rest of the herbs.

Garnish with chopped nuts if you wish, such as chopped pistachios or chopped toasted hazelnuts with skins removed.

If you plan on serving your kofta with just lettuce wraps, a second salad such as Tabbouleh might be nice to eat off the plate. 

Mix the olive oil and lemon juice and lightly whisk to make the salad dressing. Put this in a glass jug and dress the salad just before serving or leave everyone to dress their own.

For our Turkish dessert, this  platter ticked all the boxes. P & J made the delicious Baklava with a lovely hint of orange, and the Turkish delight, the Halva, and the dried fruits were bought from a locally owned Fruit and Vegetable shop in Mackay called Mifsuds, which also doubles as the best Deli in town.

This was a wonderful finish to our Turkish meal.

Somehow during all of this Turkish mayhem, Mr. HRK found time to give our Locky a bath. He really does love his bath, even though he looks a bit sad here. I was hoping he would smile at me for the photo. Happy days!

It is our 44th Wedding Anniversary today, so we have some special things planned, and some delicious seafood on the menu to celebrate.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, hope you can plan to do something very enjoyable. Stay safe. 

Best wishes,

Pauline

















































Thursday, 22 April 2021

Middle Eastern Lamb Siniyah a la` Yotam Ottolenghi

Rich and comforting, one pot stewed lamb with a tahini crust are the stars of this Middle Eastern version of Shepherds Pie. Who doesn't love a tasty Shepherds Pie? Well I promise you, this dish will exceed your expectations even further. Yotam Ottolenghi has created  a very clever recipe here, one of many in his book "Simple".  

This dish is perfect for a dinner party, as the lamb stew can be cooked well in advance on the stovetop, one or two days ahead and stored in the refrigerator, and actually improves in flavour. To be honest, I was slightly sceptical about how the tahini crust would actually work, and had contingencies in place in case it didn't, replace it with mashed potato perhaps as we do with our Aussie Shepherds Pie? However the crust worked like a dream and was nicely crispy around the edges. It firmed up even more in the middle when I kept it warm for an hour in the oven at 100 deg., until we were ready to eat. I stepped out of my comfort zone slightly with the final stages of this recipe, but now that I have made it, I am happy to say it is "Simple" to do as Ottolenghi promises. This recipe really works.

Yotam says this recipe can feed 4 -6, but I think it easily feeds 8. I served it with rice, my Moroccan Chick Pea salad which is always a favourite, and a green salad. This would be delicious served with bulghur instead of rice as well which is really on theme with Middle Eastern cuisine. The quantities can easily be doubled if you have a pot large enough to cook it in, which is also oven proof. If you are very keen to feed your family more hidden  vegetables, add some baby spinach to the pot towards the end, it breaks down and lends some more color and flavour.

Ingredients:

60 ml olive oil

2 small onions (250 g) finely chopped

4 medium celery sticks (250 g) finely sliced

1 tsp tomato paste

1 tablespoon baharat spice mix

1 kg stewing lamb ( we bought a leg of lamb and boned it) , cut into 2 cm chunks

500 g plum tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped or 1 can of tomatoes

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground

1 tsp paprika

60 g pine nuts, toasted

40 g parsley, chopped

salt and black pepper

150 g chopped baby spinach (optional)

TAHINI SAUCE

200 g tahini

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

COOKING TIPS:

If doubling the recipe, try 1 can of tomatoes and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. You need a rich flavour, but not too much liquid or it bubbles up through the tahini topping during baking.

I used a can of tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes because they are so expensive, although Yotam says that using very ripe fresh tomatoes gives a superior flavour. Fresh tomatoes need to be blanched in boiling water, and peeled so that they absorb more of the beautiful flavours. If you have the time, go for it. Whilst this was delicious, I'll try it with fresh tomatoes next time.

I have also made this dish, by multiplying the ingredients by 1/2 again, and 750 g of whole canned tomatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons of tomato paste worked well.

Method:

1. Put a 20 cm wide casserole pan on your stovetop, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and select a medium heat.

Tip in the onions and the celery and saute for 10 - 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft.

Mix in the tomato paste, the ground fennel and the baharat spice, and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic, and then scrape all of this into a large heatproof pyrex bowl.

For the next stage, browning the meat, you will be using the same pot, no need to clean it.

2. Your chopped lamb needs to be seasoned with 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of black pepper.

Pour 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil into the same pan, and place on a medium high heat. The lamb now needs to be browned off in batches. Add a quarter of the lamb at a time, and fry for 3 minutes, turning a few times so that all the sides are brown.

Transfer each browned batch to the bowl of onions, adding 1/12 teaspoons of oil to the pan with each batch.

Return all the lamb and vegetables to the pot, and tip in two-thirds of the tomatoes, the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

Bring all of this mixture to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for about 70 minutes, with the lid on, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thick. The sauce needs to be thick so that too much sauce doesn't bubble up through the tahini crust in the final stage of baking.

However check the pan during this final stage of cooking to ensure the meat isn't sticking to the base. Try not to walk away and totally forget about it. It needs to be checked regularly, particularly in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Thankfully mine didn't stick at all. Just add a little bit of water if it starts sticking.

Mix in the pine nuts, parsley and remaining tomatoes and set aside.

3. If you are baking this dish straight away, turn on the oven about 10 minutes before the meat is ready. Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C fan.

4. Making the Tahini Sauce

Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, 160 ml of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a medium bowl. Ensure the tahini and the good oils in the jar are well mixed before you do this. A good quality Middle Eastern tahini authentically bottled in the Middle East is the ultmate tahini to use if you have access to a Middle Eastern supermarket or deli, however this time I used the Macro brand, certified organic, Unhulled Tahini from the supermarket and it worked well. 

The consistency should be pourable, with a thickness like double cream. Just a bit more water if you need to, I didn't need to, the measurements were perfect. 

Pour this evenly over the stewed lamb and bake, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the tahini has thickened.

Then take the lid off the pan, and bake for another 20 minutes, uncovered, for the tahini crust to turn golden brown. It will also start to crisp up around the edges, which I was excited about.

5. Carefully remove the dish from the oven, and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Sprinkle with some finely chopped parsley if you wish.


This pretty bouquet of flowers was a gift from a friend and makes a nice table centrepiece. I don't have this bush with the yellow flower anymore, but it is lovely don't you think, so I must try and buy one. Even though we have flowers in our garden, it is still always nice to receive a small bunch of flowers as a gift.

Well it's nearly the end of another week, where did it go? Mr. HRK and I have just had our flu injections, so that's another important thing done, and now in three weeks we should be able to have our first Covid jab. There have been some very mixed reactions by people receiving the first injection of Astra Zeneca so here's hoping  that when you have it your reaction will be mild.

It's Anzac Day on Sunday, always the 25th April, so the next project is to make some delicious rolled oats Anzac biscuits. I was very happy with the ones I made last year and here is the recipe link it you would like to bake some as well.


Take care my friends and thanks for dropping by,  

Pauline










Monday, 19 April 2021

Light and Cheesy Green Vegetable Coconut Soup

Veggie lovers, this one is for you. It's Meat Free Monday in our kitchen, and the perfect day for it. It's a wonderful time of the year to increase our intake of fruit and vegetables. With the weather cooling down even here in the tropics thank goodness, the markets and supermarkets are stocking a beautiful selection of fresh produce at reasonable prices.  Broccoli is $2.99 a kilo today, reasonably priced at last. Will it go lower in price, I hope so.This soup is a celebration of all the beautiful green produce coming into season right now. The weekend is often the time when we spend time socialising with friends and family, consuming delicious food and enjoying a couple of drinks so let's give our bodies a chance to recharge on Monday and also help the environment by going meat free. 

I am revisiting this old favourite of mine, which I keep changing each time I cook it, and I am so pleased with the result today, that I thought I would share it with you. I have made no compromises with this soup my friends, it is all vegetable based, using totally green produce. Oh I just realised, I probably can't call the garlic or the coconut oil green, however they are both produced organically, and the garlic I use is grown locally at Eungella.

 Broccoli and zucchini are now recognised as being key vegetables for people suffering from high blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Without going into too much detail about it, broccoli is a rich source of Chromium, a mineral which helps to improve insulin action in pre-diabetes and control blood glucose, an important factor for everyone these days I think. Never has it been more important to keep healthy and boost our immune system. Green vegetable soup is also quite creamy when pureed, thanks to the texture and structure of the versatile zucchini. This soup makes it so easy to include broccoli in your family's diet in a very appetising way, and to control our weight as well. However, for some variety and to be economical, try using up green leftovers and bits and pieces in your crisper by adding celery, beans, chives, eschallots, peas, spinach or silverbeet, a mix of herbs, or anything green and edible. I used 1 cup of frozen peas and beans in this soup which is so convenient.

Ingredients:

1 leek, washed and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
6 cups roughly chopped green vegetables, which can include 2 zucchinis, 1 head of broccoli, celery, 1 cup frozen peas and 1 cup beans.  Use whatever you have. (However, it works best using zucchini and broccoli as a base for your other vegetables.)
2 handfuls of baby spinach roughly chopped, these cook right down (optional)
1-2 green chillis (optional)
1 litre vegetable stock (homemade is best if you have it or use stock cubes)
1 cup roughly chopped herbs, such as coriander, basil, oregano or flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 coriander roots finely chopped if you are using coriander as one of your herbs
Pinch of salt, ground black pepper for seasoning
Juice of ½ to 1 lemon (Test the taste after adding juice from ½ a lemon and add more if required.)
1 cup crumbled sharp cheddar such as parmesan

Recipe Notes: 
  • I love the flavour of leeks, however you can use onion.
  • Use butter or ghee instead of coconut oil if that is what you prefer.
  • Swap the green vegetables around using whatever you have on hand.
  • Use chicken stock instead of vegetable if that is all you have.
  • Use fresh rocket for some punch if you wish.
  • If you are vegetarian, add some cooked green lentils for extra protein in your diet.
Method:

Sauté the leek and garlic in the coconut oil in a large saucepan for a superior flavour. (if you are really in a hurry omit this step and just add to the rest of the vegetables, it will still taste great). 


Add the green vegetables to the leek and garlic and stir for a minute, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the herbs, salt to your taste, and a few grinds of black pepper, and then the rocket if you are using it. 

Simmer until all the vegetables are cooked and softened. Taste to check the seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed.


Turn off the heat and puree until smooth using a stick blender, or pulse in a normal upright blender when it has cooled slightly.

Whisk in the lemon juice and stir through the cheese, or omit the cheese and top with a dollop of low fat yoghurt or basil pesto. I like to garnish with lots of fresh green herbs such as parsley. There are so many healthy options to choose from.

You can also add some tasty blue cheese to the soup bowl. It will take the whole experience to a new level.


Have an enjoyable and safe week,

Best wishes,

Pauline








Monday, 12 April 2021

In My Kitchen - April 2021

 Welcome to In My Kitchen for April, 2021. It's still school holidays here, not that this affects me much, as we're not travelling and don't have children or granchildren in town, however shopping centres and roads are a lot busier at this time of year, and thankfully the weather is cooling down. Here in North Queensland, we aren't blessed with such significant changes of season as the southern states or those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere, however here we love it when the days begin to shorten after Easter as Winter approaches and the the cooler weather is just hiding around the corner.  That's when the real cooking and dare I say it, exercise, ugh, begins.

I made this large loaf of high top sourdough bread last week, a nice change from the artisan cobs I've been experimenting with, and easier to eat as toast. Then with some of the leftover starter made a batch of sourdough blueberry muffins. I was really pleased with this bread loaf, which I proofed overnight and  was a combination of rye, spelt and wholemeal flours, and had a really nice texture. We sliced half of it and froze it, and have been eating the rest each day. 





This is a great muffin recipe to make when you have leftover sourdough starter after bread making. They freeze well, and then reheat beautifully for breakfast or morning tea. They have a distinct flavour and aren't too sweet if you are watching your sugar intake, especially after Easter. They take a while to proof and finish, but so does the bread so they can be synchronised easily with bread making.


Here's my muffin recipe:
Spelt Sourdough Blueberry Honey Muffins

Ingredients:

 2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 cups bubbly sourdough starter
1 cup buttermilk or kefir
2 tablespoons chia seeds

1/2 cup honey
3/4 teaspoons sea salt
2 large beaten eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil (use melted butter if you wish)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 cups fresh/frozen blueberries (I used frozen) or you can use chopped apple, almonds, cinnamon & nutmeg

Method:

Soak chia seeds in buttermilk for 15 minutes to soften until translucent .
7 to 12 hours before you want to bake the muffins,mix the flour, starter, and soaked chia, until just combined. Add a little water to moisten if necessary.
Cover and leave in a warm place to ferment. I left mine all day in a warm spot on the patio. However an overnight proofing along with the bread would be perfect.


When your dough has fermented and risen, preheat your oven to 220 deg. C.
Combine the honey, salt, beaten eggs, and melted coconut oil in a medium bowl. Beat until combined.
Sprinkle baking soda and baking powder (leavening agents) evenly over the fermented dough.

Start to fold in the leavening agents, and pour in 1/3 of the liquid mixture and any dried fruit or nuts if you are using them and fold until all combined. Repeat with the second 1/3 of the liquid.


Sprinkle the blueberries over the batter, and then finish kneading with the last 1/3 of the liquid mixture, until just combined.


The dough is a bit stretchier than a quick bread dough because of the fermentation process.

When all the ingredients are mixed in thoroughly, divide the batter into 12 greased muffin cups. You might even need up to 18 depending on how risen your dough is and the size of your muffin cups. I needed 14 just to be different.

Bake them in a preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown and risen. Leave them to cool and then enjoy.

During most of the cooking Locky our Border Collie dog is never far from my side in the kitchen. He's just hoping that a titbit will miraculously fall from the bench onto the floor. It's been a tough week for Locky, as he hasn't been well with a serious ear infection and a couple of skin issues and had to have a General Anaesthetic to have his ear flushed out. He's been off colour for a few weeks poor darling. Blood tests showed that he has a low thyroid problem, typical of mature, large breed dogs. So now he is on medication for the rest of his life, but the condition isn't life threatening so we are very relieved. Mr. HRK has been looking after him very well, giving him tablets and ear drops, and keeping his ears clean. We are so relieved though that his condition wasn't caused by his dog food, as the vet said that was a possibility. So his large packets of Hills Science dog food will be eaten, Locky loves his tucker. This photo isn't Locky at his happiest, as he had only had his procedure the day before. He loves bread making days though just like I do, and is quite partial to little bits of uncooked dough and flour that land on the floor. He is a lot happier now, a few days later.



From my kitchen window, I can see my lovely orchids that are in flower at the moment. They bring me a lot of joy. This old water pitcher was my Mum's and has been repaired many times, but I still love it and it is a nice pot stand for this pretty Oncidium orchid.


LC Little Suzie x Chocolate Drop is like an old friend. She keeps flowering every year, and I now have a few pots of this one, all broken up from the original plant. She comes into my kitchen for special occasions, but she prefers to live on the patio where I can see her from the kitchen when I'm cooking. That's when she is flowering. Otherwise they all live in the orchid house.

Cattleya LC Little Suzie x Chocolate Drop

It's a lovely time of year for orchids, the cattleyas are flowering.

I am very excited though that my Tillandsias are also flowering this year, perhaps the heat has brought them on. These delicate purple flowers are quite fragrant, and the plant has been producing flowers for over a month now. They are growing quite happily in a hanging basket, although they are epiphytes and will also grow on trees.


My Cooktown orchid is also flowering nicely on the potted Fig tree.


Easter was time for a few treats, and we love these dark chocolate ginger balls from Buderim in Queensland. They also produce a lot of naked ginger in packets, a kind of crystallised ginger which is brilliant in cakes and biscuits. I often place a layer of it in the middle of my ginger syrup cake.


I bought Silvia Colloca's inspiring book before Easter, and my regular readers will have already seen the Chocolate Ganache cake I made from it for Easter and a friend's birthday. It was delicious.


Here's the cake.


You can find the recipe for my Chocolate Ganache cake here at this link.

I bought this new book about Posh Tarts for $3.00 today at a book sale, as if I need anymore cookery books, but I read them like novels. Mr. HRK spotted it on my desk, and I said we are going posh. Then he realised it was about cooking and seemed disappointed. Can't imagine why! Oh well, I'm sure I will get my money's worth. Looking forward to trying a few recipes from this one when it is cooler for pastry making.


Then there was a batch of vegetable stock to  appease the guilt after Easter.



On a sunny note, this yellow gerbera is quite the star of the show in my garden.


I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to read more In My Kitchens. 


I have just reached the deadline for this IMK. Hope you enjoy it. 

Warm wishes everyone,

Pauline