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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Caponata, a Sicilian Eggplant Stew


 I've tried a few different Caponata recipes, because I love the sweet and sour tangy flavours typical of this Mediterranean vegetable stew. It's also a handy dish to make at home when I have extra eggplants. However in this version, my favourite so far, the sultanas add a piquant sweetness to the earthiness of the eggplant without adding too much sugar,which combined with the vinegar gives this dish the moreish factor. It can be eaten hot, warm or cold.

 Mr. HRK is always hesitant when it comes to  eggplant dishes. However, this one has won him over, and over lunch when I served it he surprised himself and me by saying still quite tentatively, because he couldn't quite believe it,  how much he enjoyed it. I used the white eggplants in this, which are always home grown by me or our friend Paul, however any type can be used, but they must be very fresh, preferably picked on the same morning. There is no room for any bitterness in this dish. That is probably the secret to  enjoying this one which is great because the recipe makes a large amount, some of which can be frozen for later.



I am indulging myself by putting this recipe on my blog for easy access and for your enjoyment too, as it is a version adapted from the taste.com website. I need to know I can find it really easily next time, when I have forgotten where it originally came from. However, I change the recipe slightly each time I make it, depending  on what I have on hand. This time I used lots of fresh tomatoes instead of canned as they needed to be used, and omitted the orange zest rather than make a special trip to the shops to buy an orange. I also only have basil growing now as it has been very hot and my parsley has died as a result. A lot of recipes, are just a guide and can be varied within limits. Despite the variations, this dish is still delicious and simple to make.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 medium sized white eggplants, or one large purple eggplant, cut into 2cm cubes
1 large red capsicum, diced into 2 cm pieces
5 large very ripe fresh tomatoes, or 1x400g can chopped tomatoes (I've used both at different times)
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
350ml of stock, beef, chicken or vegetable , whatever you prefer or have on hand ( in an ideal world homemade is best)
1/4 cup (50g) capers, rinsed
1/4 cup pitted green olives (the Sicilian ones in a bottle are delicious)
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup (40g) sultanas
1 tablespoon grated orange zest ( still delicious without this)
1 teaspoon caster sugar (if you like it sweeter)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup (40g) toasted pine nuts

Serve with char grilled slices of sourdough bread for an easy meal, perhaps with a poached egg on top.

There will be leftover capers and olives in the jars after making this dish. If you enjoy these types of flavours and I know you will, my Chicken Marbella recipe will use up the rest of the capers and olives. They will keep in the bottles for a while in the refrigerator, so you can plan ahead for this one as it is a special occasion Mediterranean dish.

Method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large fry pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and and cook for 3-5 minutes, until slightly softened, stirring all the time. Add the rest of the oil, and add the eggplant, cooking and stirring for 5-8 minutes, until the eggplant starts to soften but isn't dry.

Add the capsicum, tomatoes, garlic and stock and cook for another 15 minutes, until the vegetables start to cook together and break down.

Add the capers, olives, vinegar, sultanas, orange zest, sugar and some sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the Caponata becomes thick and stewy.


Stir through the herbs and pine nuts and serve with some delicious char grilled or toasted sourdough bread. Treat it like a Bruschetta, it can be served hot or warm or cold, as a starter or as a main meal. If you like a glass of wine with your meal, a glass of chilled rose will hit the spot.

I also sometimes serve the Caponata with pasta as a sauce for a more filling meal. Add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, and increase the amount of tomatoes to 2 cans so that the mixture is more like a sauce. I also increase the amount of  capers and olives to 1/3 cup of each and add lots of basil. It is so adaptable as a dish to enjoy at anytime of day!

It is the amazing Summer of tennis, and we are relaxing in front of the TV watching the Australian Open. Nick Kyrgios just won his match in a thriller which was great. Dasher is about to start playing so must go. Love the tennis, do you?

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes

Pauline

















Saturday, 13 January 2018

Pomegranate Chicken and Burghul Salad

A warm delicious chicken salad that takes no time to prepare at all, adorned with fresh and pretty pomegranate  seeds, is just the answer on a hot summer's day. This is the perfect addition to your salad repertoire for an easy Summer meal. Serve it with a crisp, cool green salad and everyone will think it took more time than it actually did to prepare. The chicken meat needs to be rested for 10 minutes before combining with the salad ingredients. Chopped pistachios or roasted pine nuts are the perfect Middle Eastern garnish to set the scene. I used pine nuts because the pistachios had mysteriously disappeared from my pantry, however next time pistachios will be on the plate.


Unfortunately pomegranates are seasonal, and we are seeing less and less of them in the supermarkets now in the Tropics. The seeds can sometimes be found packaged in plastic boxes  in the fruit section, just like the blueberries and raspberries.

We have a  1 year old Pomegranate tree growing in our garden, and we have high hopes for that tree, no pressure though.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

8 skinless chicken thighs

Marinade:

2 garlic cloves
1/2 green chilli
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil

Salad:

1 1/4 cups couscous or burghul
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup (75g) currants
Splash of pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup (50g) pistachios, chopped, or browned pine nuts
Fresh Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Method:

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Cook the burghul or couscous according to the packet. Fluff it up with a fork then stir through the mint and parsley, currants and molasses. Let your head go with the mint and the parsley for extra flavour.

Cook the chicken thighs: 

Heat a frying pan over high heat, add the thighs and cook on one side for 3 minutes or until golden. Turn over and quickly brown the other side. Then roast them in a preheated oven 180 deg. oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked right through.

Allow the chicken to rest, then shred the meat into bite-size pieces.



Transfer the burghul salad to a serving platter and top with the chicken, pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

This recipe was adapted from one I found by David Herbert when he was having a quack in the Weekend Australian newspaper magazine, ha, ha. It looked good to me. Thanks David, delicious as always.

Serves 4.

How do I love food? Let me count the ways....

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline




Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Friday Night Special for a family


Tuna and rice are the basis of so many economical and tasty meals and this one has been a family favourite for years. Preparing fast, easy and nutritious meals is the way to survive the summer we are having. Sometimes they take a little bit of forward planning, for example with this dish having the rice cooked in advance, but that is easy particularly if you cook a stir fry the night before accompanied by rice. Just cook some extra rice and chill it overnight in the refrigerator. Mr. HRK's sister, Suzanne, gave me this recipe when all of our children were still at home and we were both working. It was always the perfect Friday night dinner after a busy week, which we all looked forward to. Who doesn't love Friday nights? The children also enjoyed it heated up for breakfast on toast the next day. There might be another name for this dish somewhere, as it is similar to a Kedgeree, but this is what we have always called it.

The milder tasting ingredients are very suited to children's tastes, however I have also added a chopped large red chilli, an extra couple of teaspoons of curry powder, and extra mango chutney as a condiment for a bit more spicy flavour when it is just Mr. HRK and me eating it.

I hope you can give this a try as it is simple to make but delicious, and improves in flavour overnight. It also freezes well.

Ingredients:

1 425 g can of tuna in spring water
2 tablespoons oil or butter
3 cups cooked brown or white rice (I prefer brown rice now)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
4 boiled eggs for serving if desired
1 tablespoon Mango or other fruit chutney (optional)

Method:

Boil enough rice in advance to make 3 cups of cooked rice, and chill on a tray in the refrigerator.
Lightly fry the onion in oil until transparent. Add the tomato and the curry powder and lightly fry for a few minutes or until tomato is softened and you can smell the curry powder cooking.
Add the drained can of tuna and stir through the other ingredients until warmed through.
Add the tomato sauce and the coconut and stir through the mixture.
Lastly, add the rice gradually and stir through until all of the other ingredients are distributed through the rice, keeping some chunks of tuna in tact.

This dish is also delicious with a tablespoon of Mango chutney stirred through it before serving.

Season with salt and pepper to taste if you need to.

Serve sprinkled with finely sliced coriander or parsley and sliced boiled eggs.


Best wishes

Pauline


(This is an original recipe by Happy Retirees Kitchen)

Friday, 5 January 2018

Strawberry Jam Drops, a weekend biscuit treat

Jam Drops may be retro, but they are still a popular biscuit to enjoy for morning or afternoon tea. This is a family recipe from my Mum's collection and probably dates back to the 1950's. When haven't Jam Drops been part of every home cook's repertoire? I have tweaked it slightly, adding vanilla essence, but I love the nutty flavour and aroma that rolling these uncooked biscuits in dessicated coconut brings to the plate when they are baked. It  is the browned coconut sprinkles that set this recipe apart. The whole family will love them.

Happy New Year to my readers of this recipe. I hope 2018 is healthy and fulfilling and everything you wish it t be.



 Jam Drops are a great way of using up extra jam, which sits patiently bottled in the refrigerator waiting to be noticed. We returned from Cairns this week, to shockingly hot weather, exacerbated by a very hot Northerly wind blowing which we aren't used to at all. However, I needed a sweet treat with a cuppa and rather than make a whole cake, I thought of biscuits which are quick to make and bake, and also to eat, although I can stop at one. These biscuits are nicely crisped on the outside, and chewy in the middle. I used my homemade strawberry jam in these which is quite thick, however any jam will do. To bring them up to children's party status in the past, I have also added hundreds and thousands or some other colorful decoration to the top of the jam filling, nice for a change. I'm sorry  I didn't think to do that this time for an interesting  photo.

The trickiest part with making these biscuits is rolling them into the right sized shape in the coconut. The mixture spreads during cooking, as you can see in my first cooked tray below, so they do need to be spaced out well. The ideal Jam Drop is round, with the shape not affected by it's closest neighbour. However it depends on how you are feeling as to how particular you want to be, and the shape doesn't affect the deliciousness of them at all. The second tray of 5 biscuits, is more like how they should look in an ideal world. There were 6 on that tray before Mr. HRK sampled them.

This is a recipe and a biscuit to be enjoyed whilst relaxing with your feet up.
 
Ingredients:

Makes about 25

1//2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups sifted SR flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup desiccated coconut
115g (1/3 cup)strawberry or raspberry jam

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.

Beat butter and sugar to a cream.
Add well beaten eggs one at a time. Then add vanilla essence.
Lastly add sifted flour.
Take teaspoonfuls of mixture and roll in coconut.

Place each uncooked Jam Drop on a greased tray about 5cm apart, or on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Use your lightly floured finger to make an indentation in each ball. Add 1/2 teaspoon jam into the centre of each biscuit with a small spoon.



Place tray in oven.

You may need to turn tray around halfway through cooking for even browning.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, until biscuits are cooked through and light golden.

Store biscuits in  single layers between sheets of non-stick baking paper, in an airtight container in a cool place if possible for up to 2 days. They won't last much longer.



6 cooked on a second tray and one missing already whilst still hot.




Below is the riginal handwritten recipe from my Mum's recipe book. This is the full extent of the recipe. What occurred to me when I was looking through her old recipes was how simple and briefly worded they were. Most of them were hand written and handed on through the family or friends.  The specific instructions on how to cook the recipe was communicated verbally and still is to a certain extent, and there was also an understanding that who you gave your prized recipe to could cook. Recipes in books and on line now often include so much detail, aimed at the beginner cook to those more experienced. Ingredients are also more complex requiring explanation. What are your thoughts on this? Is there sometimes too much wording and detail in the recipes of today? Or do you find all of that extra detail interesting as I do.



This was the complete recipe in my Mum's recipe book. Just four ingredients and a brief method. How times have changed.

Keep cool or warm depending on which Hemisphere you are living in.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes,

Pauline


Saturday, 23 December 2017

Chocolate Rum Truffles or Christmas Trumffles



It's Christmas Eve and it's starting to feel like Christmas, especially when these delicious chocolate truffles are made and sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be enjoyed. My first batch only had 2 tablespoons of rum in them, however when they are refrigerated as we need to during a hot Queensland summer the flavour of the rum tends to reduce so I doubled the amount in the next batch and Mr. HRK and Shannon gave them the thumbs up, after trying a couple of them of course just to make sure. They are delicious with an afternoon  cup of  tea or coffee or an evening aperitif.

I hope you are enjoying the lead up to Christmas and that the commercial frenzy of the event hasn't affected you too much.

I have to admit that when I first starting making these  little balls I was calling them Rum Balls. However as often happens, the recipe evolved into more of a truffle like mixture so that is what I have called them. Shannon also reminded me that my classic Rum Balls used to always be made with Weetbix and had coconut in them. So do you prefer to make Rum Balls or Truffles at Christmas time or is there another traditional sweet family treat that you like to make?

Shannon has named these Trumffles as they are a cross between a Rum Ball and a Truffle, ha, ha.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Ingredients:

250g sweet biscuits, such as Mcvities Digestives Milk Chocolate biscuits or Arrowroot biscuits
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut
4 tablespoons rum (I used Bundaberg Rum
Chocolate sprinkles and extra fresh desiccated coconut for coating in two separate batches

Method:

Drop your biscuits separately into the food processor through the chute whilst motor is running to make fine crumbs.
Place the biscuit crumbs into a mixing bowl. Stir in all of the other ingredients until well combined.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour until mixture is cold and firm.
Roll level tablespoons of the mixture into bowls. This may be easier if you dampen your hands first.
Lightly roll each truffle in either coconut or chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder.

As these may be served at a family gathering over Christmas, a special Kid's edition can be made minus the alcohol by replacing the rum with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and reduce the cocoa to 1/3 cup.

(This recipe is loosely based on one I saw on a Jamie Oliver Website, and then for some reason I couldn't find it again. )

I'd like to thank you for reading my blog and supporting me with your comments throughout the year. I'd also like to thank those bloggers who have inspired me throughout the year with their enjoyable and inspiring posts. We are all part of a very diverse, global and supportive blogging community, which I look forward to being part of in 2018.

This will be my last post for a while now, possible until mid-January.

Wishing all the best for a wonderful Christmas with family and a healthy, safe and rewarding 2018.

Bye for now

Pauline xx

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Everett's Lychee Farm at Mareeba, and Rusty's Market in Cairns, they've got it covered

We drove up the range to the Atherton Tableland from Cairns, which is inland and to the West, in search of the best Lychees and Mangoes, at the best price we could find. Lychees are at the height of the season right now, and Summer of 2017 has been a good season, as it has also been for Mangoes. Mareeba is the food bowl of the Tablelands, and as we approached the thriving township, we discovered Everett's lychee farm, marketed as F.N.Q Lychee. We drove through rows and rows of lychee trees covered in nets to protect them from the Flying Foxes and the birds and came to the distribution and sorting centre where there is an ordinary refrigerator storing  bags of Grade One lychees, and bags of seconds, all for sale to the public.






We bought a 5 kg bag of Grade One lychees which mostly had very small seeds, always a very strong selling point for lychees and they are delicious, we are still eating them. They were $8.00 a kilo, a good price for the best lychees available. There is a slight variation of flavour amongst them though as we discovered that in each bag there are a few different varieties: Fay Zee Sui, Taiso, Kiamana, and Soui Tung. All very juicy and delicious. We were told that large trucks arrive daily to transport hundreds of kilos south to the interstate Markets, and to Rusty's markets in Cairns. However, Rusty's only want the Seconds to sell to the public, which means it is then up to the consumer at the markets to sort through them and choose the best ones they can find. Everett's take great pride in the quality of their lychees as they are very serious commercial producers, and would  prefer for Rusty's to be buying their top quality lychees. However we have also bought lychees from the markets and they were fine. This saves Everetts from having to discard the lychees which aren't top quality.

F.N.Q Lychee is located at:
M & J Everett
209 Malone Rd
Mareeba, 4880
Phone: 07 4093 3120

Surely we don't always need to be buying the top quality in fresh produce if it saves us a few dollars.It doesn't have to look perfect to taste good. We found some 2nd grade lychees at Rusty's last weekend for $5 a kilo, a saving of $3.00 a kilo. By Sunday, the last day of the market, they may cost even less.

Whilst in the area, we saw this Strawberry Bowen Mango tree. The mangoes were a beautiful purple colour which we hadn't seen before. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any for sale.


Rusty's Market in the centre of Cairns is a must to visit from Friday to Sunday, because if it isn't at Rusty's it just isn't grown in the region. I'll let the photos mostly do the talking however it is always fascinating to explore the bountiful produce on sale in this huge barn. I took photos of some of the more rare fruits and vegetables as well so that I can do some homework and discover what I can actually do with them in my kitchen. We will be staying with our daughter in Cairns until after Christmas so there will be more trips to Rusty's as it is the only place to shop for the fresh stuff.

Backpackers make a meal of it as well, as there are lots of plates of samples available, so a cheap and healthy breakfast is available if you have the time to wander around and sample. We haven't done that  for breakfast though. There are lots of delicious cooked foods available by some very clever people and that could be another story in the future.

 Very delicious and ripe Bowen mangoes. Ready to eat.


These ones are mostly still green and should ripen in a week.



I bought a loaf of the Dark Rye Sour Dough bread and enjoyed it. This artisan baker makes hundreds of loaves each weekend for the markets as many customers now prefer the health benefits of unrefined flour and sourdough.






I was quite fascinated by the very large Bamboo shoots in the shape of Rhinoceros horns from Innisfail, just south of Cairns. I'm not sure what to do with them though, ha, ha. Any ideas?





Dragonfruit  are delicious and very colourful, when peeled, sliced and served with a cheese platter.



Who doesn't love large bunches of exotic flowers such as the Heliconias, Strelitzias and Gingers. they look so perfect.




I've never eaten Jackfruit, have you?












Daikon can be used to make fermented Kimchi.


Amongst all of this excitement in the Far North, we have also been cat sitting our daughter's cat, Nala. Nala is a pedigree Tonkinese, which is a cross between a Siamese and a Burmese breed of cat. Shannon found her as a Rescue cat, and she initially was extremely shy and timid with us, however she is becoming used to us now. When we first met her, she would spend most of her time under the bed. Whilst she still doesn't like to be cuddled much, she is happy to be stroked and patted particularly around feeding time, and is a proximity cat,  always just sitting a little bit away from us. She loves her food.

Here is a photo of Nala. She is allowed outside for a play in the mornings and the afternoons.


Isn't she beautiful?



This is the photo of the pool in our daughter's Unit complex that we swim in most days and that we look out onto when we have our breakfast and morning coffee. It is such a welcome respite from the tropical heat. Nala generally sits by the pool as we swim and keeps us company. She loves to be by water as long as she isn't in it.

Stay safe my friends and I hope all is going well in your world. Thanks for dropping by.

Bye for now

Pauline

Monday, 11 December 2017

An Easy Pecan Pie with Maple Syrup to enjoy for the Holidays


Pecan Pie is a traditional American dessert and Thanksgiving favourite, and whilst there are stacks of recipes and variations out there, this one is so simple without comprising on taste or quality. I really encourage you to make this one, as it is just so quick and easy and delicious. My only compromise is to buy a frozen shortcrust pastry base, as I am baking this in Tropical Cairns, and the thought of making pastry in the Tropical Summer heat of 33 deg. is rather challenging. I  bought a frozen pastry base which can be used for both savoury and sweet tarts, as I like the contrast of a slightly savoury base with the sweet filling. The biggest challenge with this is being very careful with the pastry so that it arrives home and into the freezer without being broken. I bought two just in case. Well Murphy's Law prevailed, I don't know how it happened, but one ended up in lots of small pieces and the other one stayed in tact, thank goodness. Not to worry though, because as my daughter Shannon said, the second broken one can still be baked and sprinkled over other desserts, ha, ha. Waste not, want not.

While the pie is baking, the pecans rise to the top, leaving a gooey layer of sugary custard below almost like a light caramel, which contrasts well with the crisp nutty surface. To be honest, I haven't baked a Pecan Pie for a long, long time, although I had eaten this particular one before when my friend Chris made it. She very generously gave me her recipe. I think it will become a family favourite. I was cooking this for Shannon and Dan, and of course Mr. HRK, and as Dan is originally Canadian, I thought that he would appreciate this traditional dessert, and he certainly did.

Traditionally Karo Syrup is used when making Pecan pie in the U.S., however the maple syrup works beautifully and some books say it was used before Karo Syrup, a form of corn syrup,  became the preferred choice. Texas claimed the Pecan Pie as it's official dessert in 2013, as the Pecan nut is  the official nut of Texas. Just a little bit of history there.

This only took me about 10 minutes to assemble before placing it in the oven, and as I was also making lasagna for the main course, it was great to make a very easy dessert.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
Sweet short crust pie case (frozen)
3 eggs beaten
1/2 cup sugar
½ cup maple syrup (the real stuff, not imitation)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Method:

Preheat oven to 175 deg. F
Mix eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla together.
Spread chopped pecans over your pie base and pour mixture over the top. (Sometimes the brand of pie case can be a little small for the mixture if the eggs are extra large and some spillage can occur so place pie on a tray.)

Bake in a moderate oven for 30-45 minutes. This depends on how hot your oven is. At home, I probably would have cooked this for 40 minutes, however Shannon's oven is quite hot and I took it out after 35 minutes as I didn't want to risk burning it.

Serve with a delicious ice cream.

Pecan Pie straight out of the oven

I was a bit worried about taking the pie out of the alfoil case as it was the first time I have baked a frozen tart shell, and I didn't want it to risk breaking it up. However next time I make it I will be brave and remove it from the alfoil, ha, ha.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes

Pauline