Here in Tropical North Queensland, our verandahs and patios become as much a part of our kitchen and eating area as our inside kitchen does. We spend a lot of time outside in our outdoor kitchen. So I thought as part of my In My Kitchen series for Sherry's Pickings, it was appropriate to showcase my latest orchid which is flowering in my outdoor kitchen. I had moved it to the front garden to hang under our mandarin tree, hoping that aspect would encourage it to flower and it has. However it is a sad part of life that passers by take a fancy to beautiful flowering plants in pots and walk off with them. Fortunately this hasn't actually happened to me but it has to other keen gardeners in our neighbourhood so I'm not taking any risks.. So my beautiful purple Vanda Pachara Delight is now brightening up my outdoor kitchen.
During the last couple of weeks, I have been preparing for Christmas. Christmas cooking has become a tradition for me each year, and most years as a minimum I prepare a large pot of mango chutney, a large Christmas Fruit cake and a Plum Pudding. My dear Mum used to be the provider of all of these Christmas goodies each year, and whilst I really enjoyed the results, I regrettably couldn't be there to be involved in the preparation. She also kept chickens, baked bread and preserved her own chutneys and relishes in abundance. However thankfully she handed down her recipes to me, and I have become her I think in some ways, not as good a cook perhaps, but taking on the same simple values. She was a wonderful role model for me, and each year as I spend time in the kitchen, and embrace our Christmas traditions, I think of her, and I also hope that I continue to be a good role model for my children as well. Because I have already shared the recipes for these goodies on my blog, I'll just share a few new photos and the links to the recipes for new readers. I am rushing to meet the deadline so that I can submit this to Sherry's Pickings In My Kitchen series. Heck, I've just realised I have until the 13th December, a reprieve, so that's good at least I've started and have a week to finish this. (Written a few days ago.)
It's mango season and it looks like it will be a good crop. Last week I was out picking green mangoes with a friend for the annual batch of mango chutney.
|Here's moi picking mangoes|
A pot of Mango Chutney on the outdoor gas burner, simmering away for this year's edition of mango chutney. Here is my Mum's recipe if you would like to give it a try. It is delicious. I made 15 jars from this batch, I haven't labelled the jars yet so a photo of them would be pretty uninteresting.
My Mum says in her Christmas cake recipe if a spoon will stand up in the mixture, it is the right consistency. I love that old fashioned wisdom now. And in this photo, this is her original tablespoon used in all of her cooking, standing up in the mixture.
My plum pudding fruit mixture is still soaking in brandy on my kitchen table, with the newly acquired bottle of reasonably priced JP. Cheney French brandy sitting besides it for frequent topping up. I'll let it sit for about four days and then make the mixture and boil it. Here is the original recipe if you would like to take a peek. I have never deviated from this recipe as we all just love it, although this year I am making half the mixture as it will be a small family Christmas, the smallest for a long time.
Then at the end of a long cooking or working day, what could be nicer than a relaxing cup of Lavender Latte for a change. I first saw this promoted on Not Quite Nigella's amazing blog where she made a beautiful lavender, blueberry and lemon cake using this in the ingredients. I haven't made the cake yet even though I was intrigued, but I bought a couple of packets of the latte mix and it will be added to Christmas presents this year. I love Lavender, however we can't grow it well here.
Every year at Christmas we buy a bottle of Baileys Original Irish Cream, not the copycat stuff, as this was a Christmas tradition for Mr. HRK's Dad to buy each year. So we have it already in the kitchen, and we will make a toast to him as we sip a wee glass of Baileys after Christmas lunch and Dinner.
Mr. HRK roasts his own green coffee beans, and this batch are an Ethiopian bean called Yirgacheffe Special Prep. Here they are freshly roasted and waiting to be put in the coffee grinder for our morning cup of coffee. Our Rancilio coffee machine makes a delicious cup of coffee from these beans.
We are not really Coffee Snobs, this is just the name of the Australian company that gives us the best service and we can buy our beans very economically and sustainably through them. The beans arrive in zipped cotton bags, and I am thinking of converting these bags into beeswax wraps. Not pretty but quite frugal, don't you think?
Yesterday, my day was turned upside down, in a good way really, when we realised that our beehive was ready for another honey extraction. Our local bee expert paid us a professional visit to advise Mr. HRK on a couple of things, and when the hive was opened it was obvious that the bees have been working very hard, despite the dry weather and all of the frames were full of honey comb. So Mr. HRK and I scraped the frames during the morning in the garage, strained the honey throughout the afternoon in the kitchen, and then started bottling last night. The photo below is some of the frames which have been scraped of comb and honey are ready to put back in the hive. Mr. HRK has just put them back in the hive this morning. So my kitchen has been the centre of our cottage industry honey operation since yesterday. We don't have a licence to sell honey as that gets complicated so some of it will be Christmas presents.Thankfully most of the work is now done and I have time to write this. Phew!
This is a tub of beeswax straining through a stocking, waiting to be melted down and purified in the slow cooker.
Next thing, I need to prepare some sourdough for our next loaf of bread in a couple of days. But first I need a nice cuppa.