Saturday, 24 September 2022

Harvesting honey from our beehive, we're beeside ourselves.

 

We've only been home a week and shortly we'll be heading for Sydney for a small holiday to watch Andrew Lloyd Webber's amazing Phantom of the Opera at the Sydney Opera House, watch the Rugby League Football Grand Final, visit Taronga Zoo and find some amazing places to eat. We will also be spending a couple of days in the famous nearby Hunter Valley Wine Region, we are really looking forward to that. Our interests are very eclectic. So this is a very quick post in between packing, just to say hello and let you know that this Spring, our beehive is now going gangbusters, it's very reassuring.

It's been a busy week tidying up the garden, catching up with friends and beekeeping. This week we managed to harvest some golden honey from our beehive. We both donned our Bee Suits, I took the photos and Mr. HRK inspected the hive. Thankfully we found that the bees are thriving, however we needed to replace some of the full honey frames with empty ones to create space so that the Queen will have room to lay more eggs. The rule is to move a couple of the full outside honey frames in the lower Brood box where the Queen Bee resides to the top box (the Super), move the frames along in the Brood box toward the outside, and place two empty frames in the middle of the Brood box so that the Queen can keep creating new brood there. We removed only four of the full honey frames from the Super to harvest some honey, ensuring there was still enough honey in the hive for the bees to feed on. It's the season when bees like to swarm, and decide to leave their beehive and build another one somewhere nearby, that's if the Queen feels the urge to move house, so we needed to ensure that the bees felt minimum disruption, had enough to eat, and felt there was still enough room in the hive for the Queen to lay new brood, work and live. It's a complex business. We are still learning so much about beekeeping, and it seems that we need to know as much just managing one hive, as those beekeepers who manage multiple hives. 

This frame is still a work in progress, and not ready to be harvested yet.

Once the four frames were removed, and all the bees gently brushed off the frames outside so they didn't enter our house, and they will follow the honey trail if allowed, we scraped the racks clean of honey and beeswax into a large bucket in our kitchen, where it was strained into the bottom bucket for that glorious honey.


Here is the rich honey and honeycomb falling and dripping into the buckets below.


Two of the frames were totally capped and very heavy, and when they aren't all capped it just means there could be a little more moisture in the honey, but it's fine to eat and ok for non-commercial purposes.


As you can see, this is very much a cottage industry for us, and it is so much easier to harvest the honey in small batches at home. We'll need to repeat this process in another 4 weeks or so, presuming the bees are still expanding in the hive. Spring is a beautiful time of the year for bees but they will still swarm if they aren't totally contented.

Beautiful honey dripping into the bucket, pure and clean.



We like to give away a few jars of our honey to friends for gifts and to thank them for helping out watching over our home while we are away. We think this batch of honey is perfect, light and delicious.


I am having trouble commenting on some of my favourite Wordpress blogs that I follow on my phone, and as I won't have my computer with me when we travel next time, please be sure that I will be reading your amazing blogs, but might not be commenting for a little while. Take care, and I hope you are enjoying some delicious honey where you live. It's so important that we keep looking after our bees and planting lots of native trees, bushes and even the exotics that they feed on. More about that later.
Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes,

Pauline





Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Tropical Beef and Mango Chutney Chow Mein

This is the perfect minced beef and vegetable dish for a busy weeknight, fuss free, it's loaded with lots of healthy vegetables, spices, and it takes less than half an hour to cook.  With a recipe like this, you can fly through the week stress-free, with an easy flavoursome meal that will give your family a gourmet experience on the cheap. 500 g of minced beef can be stretched to feed 6 people. I prepped all of the vegetables ahead in the morning, and then cooked the dish in the electric frypan early in the afternoon before the kitchen warmed later on as it does when the weather gets warmer here in the Tropics. I don't use my large electric frypan very often, but adding lots of chopped cabbage requires a large pan to cook it in, or a large wok would work too.  The cabbage cooks down very quickly but a large cooking vessel prevents all of those delicious vegetables spilling out everywhere uncontrollably. It looks like a lot of cabbage and it is, but the cabbage loves to be the hero and take this dish to the party.

My first version of this recipe used chopped kale, however cabbage is so much more affordable and mentioning kale is quite divisive in some culinary circles. Use it though if you wish in place of cabbage. Cabbage is just the best vegetable in my books, still very affordable and as you know I am a sucker for buying a whole pumpkin, well the same goes for a whole cabbage. Whilst we are concerned about how to feed the world's populations, in my books the whole world could be fed on simple meals including cooked pumpkins and cabbages, and a few onions, they are so versatile, nutritious, delicious and plentiful.

This recipe was originally on my blog as a Paleo recipe, it was kind of trendy back then to call it Paleo, so here it is now refreshed and repackaged.  My Mum made a dish similar to this one years ago, using her amazing Mango Chutney as the secret ingredient. I now make batches of her Mango Chutney recipe every year during mango season, which isn't that far away. Northern Territory mangoes are in the supermarkets right now, and the mango trees here in the North are full of blossom. Such a lovely tradition that I try to keep going. This is one of those recipes that can be adapted according to what is on trend and what you have in the kitchen. I used to say that mango chutney was optional with this dish, however now I am rephrasing that to essential, combined with the curry powder and soy sauce, the flavours bring so much umami (savoury flavours) and sweetness to the dish, it's a fusion of sweet and spicy flavours. If you are planning to make some mango chutney this Christmas, here is the link to my recipe.

 I love how versatile the ingredients in this dish are.  Cabbage and kale are interchangeable. Carrots can be optional, if you don't have any on hand, I have used more capsicum instead at times. If you like it spicy, add some more Curry Powder, however to feed the whole family including children, this amount of curry powder gives the right amount of heat and spice. Add finely chopped zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower whatever you have on hand, even some frozen peas would work. This is a great dish in which to serve up hidden vegetables to the family. I'm all for including hidden vegetables in cooking.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

Feeds 6 people easily

500g Lean Minced Beef
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Curry Powder
1 cup chicken stock or white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 carrots, sliced
1 capsicum sliced 
300 g chopped mushrooms
Optional: 1 chopped broccoli stalk or cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1/4 whole cabbage
Chopped coriander or parsley as a garnish
Dried noodles as a garnish

Let's cook:

Heat the oil in a pan and lightly brown the onion and the Minced Beef until cooked.

Add the Curry Powder to the mince, and stir through, and then add the Chicken Stock or White Wine and the Soy Sauce.  Bring to the boil. 

Add all the vegetables except the cabbage and reduce the dish to a simmer. Add water as necessary if the dish is drying out. When the vegetables are cooked but still crispy add the mango chutney, then add the cabbage and allow it to wilt in the pan and stir through the rest of the ingredients.

When the vegetables are cooked to the required texture, but not too soft, it is ready to eat.

Serve with noodles, brown rice, white rice or burghul. 

Cooking tips:

  • I had run out of chicken stock, but had enough white wine in the refrigerator so I used that. It worked well.
  • Add more mango chutney on the side if you love it like we do.
  • Adapt your ingredients according to the season, I added frozen beans this time as well.
  • It's traditional to eat chow mein with noodles, however rice and burghul are also delicious and quite acceptable
  • Old versions of a recipe similar to this used packet Chicken Noodle Soup and water, that is always an option if you run out of chicken stock.

Let's be honest, during the week we all have times when we feel the pressure of having to whip up a creative meal, but we really shouldn't. I remember that well particularly when I was going out to work in libraries. Not only are many of us feeling time poor these days, but we are also trying to stretch the budget as cost of living pressures are continuously rising. Heck, I am working from home now, but there still aren't enough hours in the day sometimes to achieve everything I would like to, even though we live simply. How did I find time to go out to work? A meal like this one in your cooking repertoire will get you through on those days when you just don't feel much like cooking, but a few basic ingredients can yield a very tasty and impressive dish for the whole family. The trick is to cook it, feeling a sense of accomplishment once it's made, and then just before serving up, you can jazz it up with some fried noodles, chopped herbs or whatever you have on hand. A little touch of colour on the dinner plate works wonders for everyone, don't you think?

We enjoyed quick and easy delicious leftovers with brown basmati rice and chopped coriander the following day for lunch.


Warm wishes from Northern Queensland,

Pauline

An original recipe by Pauline McNee at Happy Retirees Kitchen.













Wednesday, 7 September 2022

A weekend in outback Chillagoe, eating out, exploring the famous Mungana caves, the Smelters and the rest

Chillagoe township is 2.5 hours west of Cairns, in Far North Queensland. It's a small, country, outback town, best known for the many underground Mungana caves, locally mined slabs of marble, volcanic landforms, charming buildings and outback pubs, and the friendliness of the residents. At one stage, millions of years ago, the whole area was submerged under the ocean. The complex geomorphology of this area is fascinating.

Balancing Rock, an attraction near Chillagoe


These rocks located on the way to Balancing Rock will cut you to pieces if given the chance, they are not to be scrambled over. 

The vistas near Chillagoe containing the caves, looked like this. Austere and stunning in their cragginess.


Here is our tour group, walking toward the Royal Arch Cave.


The Queen Victoria rock formation on our way to the Royal Arch Cave. Can you see her?



The Royal Arch cave, which was supposedly easy/moderate grade, and 1.3 km return, still held a few surprises, a narrow passage to sidle through, being careful not to bump our heads in a few spots, ouch, a low shelf to squeeze under, and another tunnel to squeeze through and drop from to the ground as an optional extra. However, the tour guide's excellent commentary, the small bats, the fossilised small plants and the limestone formations made the experience very worthwhile for 1.5 intriguing hours. 

In the Royal Arch cave, we were all given our own torches to help us see where we were going which worked well, however it was quite difficult to take quality photos in the cave because of the dim light, which was to be expected.

Can you spot the Elephant in this limestone formation? There are many examples of where our imagination runs riot and pictures animal and bird like shapes in the formations.

Mr. HRK is taking the photos as he enters the Trezkinn Cave. Inside the cave it's a 230 m walk, with 250 very steep ladder-like steps at the entrance. He handled these like a pro, but it's not for the faint hearted. The 'chandelier' to be found inside this cave, a spectacular cluster of stalactites bathed in spotlights was the ultimate reward.  Our caving odyssey reminded me that every cave potentially has narrow openings to squeeze through, low ceilings to scramble or crawl under, a labyrinth of passages, but spectacular clusters of limestone formations, not to mention darting small bats, fossilised plants and animals. The very rare and protected White Rumped Swiftlet bird is found in these caves, however they are very difficult to spot. 











We didn't take a tour of the Donna Cave. The entrance involved descending through a narrow cave entrance into the hidden world, and another 330 very steep steps. Perhaps next time. However, this experience reminded me of back in the days when I lived in Rockhampton, and aged about 18 and quite small, I scrambled with friends through the Capricorn Caves underground caving system there, through very narrow tunnels and small cave entrances, enjoying the adventure. Amazing!

In this caving network, there are also some self-guided caves to explore. The Archways Cave is 15km from Chillagoe, and we enjoyed exploring this one. To explore any of these self-guided caves, remember to take your torch.

Most of us who have explored caves recently, can't help but think about the schoolboys who were stranded in the caves in Thailand, and how frighteningly dark it would have been and how on earth they survived for so long. It's such a miracle that they were rescued and survived.

Here's some Aboriginal rock art at Mungana near Chillagoe. Recently touched up we thought. 


One of the highlights of the excursion for me was exploring the country village of Chillagoe, and it's main street, named unsurprisingly Queen Street.

There were lots of treasures to be found in the Chillagoe Gallery 29 and I was prepared to take the time and look for them. It's open most days.


Inside the coffee shop/gallery.



The gardens with a rustic influence presented a peaceful haven in which to enjoy our coffee and delicious Portuguese tarts, a specialty of the house. More about those splendid tarts later. They warrant another post when I make some. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the custard tarts, we were too busy eating them.



Chillagoe is also famous for its slabs of marble.  The uniquely coloured marble is the result of volcanic activity and intense mineralisation in the area. Everywhere we walked in Chillagoe there are beautiful examples of the locally mined marble used to advantage. Some marble slabs are discreetly tucked away in gardens, and others are very large and on view in the tourist areas. At one stage, apparently Chillagoe marble was being compared favourably with the famous Italian Carrara Marble, and some of the latter was used in the new Parliament House in Canberra.









Marble used as a tabletop.



What do you do in Chillagoe on Saturday night, a pub crawl of course to the two country pubs, to find the best TV on which to watch our beloved football team, the Cowboys play. Let's just say the TV in our accommodation didn't work.

We ate a delicious steak at the iconic outback Post Office Hotel for dinner on Saturday night. We also popped in for a cold beer at lunch time and watched Aussie tennis player Ajla Tomljanovic defeat Serena Williams at the US Open. So memorable.


This is how we ate steak and chips and salad in Chillagoe.


Mine is the smaller steak. On the menu, it gives a summary of the local cattle property where the beef was raised. 


We then moved onto the very unpretentious Chillagoe Hotel Motel to watch the footy match, and were treated to the authentic Aussie country pub experience.


They even have a courtesy bus for the hotel patrons and motel residents next door, and the country folk. Rhonda was very happy to have a chat and share some Chillagoe experiences. True country hospitality.


I found the Chillagoe Public Library tucked away behind The Hub, the building where the cave tours are booked. Of course I had to take a couple of photos through the window as the library was closed being the weekend, I have a very soft spot for libraries.



A country church open to the public always lures me in. 









The Chillagoe Weir is a favourite spot to cool off for the locals.



I love old buildings, and the Chillagoe Guest House in Queen Street is a real treasure. Formerly the Post Office, it is still proudly standing opposite the Post Office Hotel. The business is up for sale, or why not buy it to live in? Are you interested? We were tempted for half an hour.


The Chillagoe Smelters were once the centre of a thriving mining industry that brought wealth and development to the Chillagoe area. Today they are a fascinating ruin on the tourist trail. Between 1901 and 1943, a gritty bustling workforce, heavily-loaded ore trains and large-scale innovative industry was supported by the distinctive chimneys. Those were tough times.



I hope you enjoyed your vicarious tour of Chillagoe. That's another bucket list item ticked for us.

Warm wishes

Pauline