Thursday, 10 October 2019

Aussie Shearers' Pikelets on the Run


Eating freshly cooked pikelets after school, with butter dripping from them, is a fond childhood memory of mine. I made this batch of pikelets and a batch of my Aussie Damper scones early on the morning of Bee day, the day we extracted our first batch of honey from our bees, (my last story on my blog). I was  thinking that we would all need a good morning tea after the work was done, and I was right. I'm always thinking ahead with food.

The honey hadn't been processed for consumption by morning tea time, so we made do with delicious strawberry jam, a gift from Ingrid's wedding, the second wedding we attended in Brisbane. The jam was made from beautiful strawberries  purchased from the Wellington Point Strawberry Farm, Wellington Point, in the Redlands, just outside Brisbane and was made lovingly by Noela, Mother of the Bride. Then the following evening we celebrated our honey haul with our friends P & J, with these pikelets for dessert, and they were delicious and so was the honey. They are versatile little creations, mini pancakes really,  and so easy to make. They are also a very economical treat made from ingredients in most pantries and can be whipped up in minutes.

Everyone needs a good pikelet recipe in their repertoire, a quick solution to the question often asked,
"What can I make for morning tea" ? This recipe is a goodie, however I think it is important to buy good quality Self Raising Flour such as White Wings, or make your own by mixing 2 teaspoons of Baking Powder to 1 cup of Plain flour and sifting it well.. The pikelets need to rise and this magic happens after they are flipped over the first time. I found this recipe in the September edition of the Australian Women's Weekly and their recipes are to be trusted. They called them Shearers' pikelets which appealed to my rustic Aussie side so that is what I have called these, although I was tempted to call them Beekeepers' pikelets as that is what we are.


A fresh batch of Pikelets
I may have mentioned before that my son and his family including our little grandchildren are living in the Falkland Islands for three years, so I am learning to be a Grandmother from a distance.  He is the Agronomist over there and as part of his work day he sometimes finds himself in a shearing shed, so I hope someone provides a nice morning tea like hot pikelets for them all sometimes. I thought of him when I was making these. The shearing sheds over there are a lot colder than the ones here though.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

Makes 28 pikelets

2 cups (300g) self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
20g butter, melted
butter, to serve





Method:

Sift the SR flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt.

 Whisk the egg, milk and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix well. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes.

Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat and lightly grease with the melted butter.

Drop dessertspoons of the batter into the pan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and the base is golden. Turn and cook on the other side until golden.

Spread the pikelets with butter while hot, or serve with strawberry jam and cream for a
Devonshire tea with or without scones.

Below is a batch of Aussie Damper Scones just out of the oven.



Have you ever eaten pikelets before and do you prefer them just with butter or with jam and cream as well? Either way they are delicious.

Warm wishes

Pauline

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Extracting Sweet Honey from our Beehive for the First Time, it's been a buzz.



It's Bee day, and after 10 months of Beekeeping, relocating our beehive and monitoring it's health,  we are ready to rob the hive (in the most gentle way) of it's golden, pure and beneficial honey.

First things first though,  the hive needed to be smoked  to calm down the bees as removing the frames containing the beeswax and honey was going to disturb the hive and upset the bees.


Mr. HRK and his bee buddy Bruce, decked out in protective gear, set to work smoking the hive and assessing the frames to determine which ones were ready for collection of the honey. 


Each frame needed to be inspected individually on both sides to determine whether it should be removed from the hive and used for honey. This frame was full of capped honey cells and could be used. The aim is that a frame should be  at least75% capped before harvesting it for honey. In tropical areas where the humidity is high, it is essential to take only combs which have been fully capped. Whilst we don't have high humidity levels here yet, it is still an important rule to follow.



Throughout this story I will be talking about honeycomb and beeswax. Just to clarify, honeycomb is the structure of hexagonal cells made by the bees mainly of wax (beeswax), which will hold their larvae and store the honey to feed the larvae and themselves, in addition to the pollen they collect. Beeswax is the wax secreted by the bees from which they make the honeycomb. Once the honey is removed from the beeswax by the beekeeper, the wax can then be processed  and used in the manufacture of many products.



Before removing the frames the bees need to be removed from the frame. The simplest method of removing the bees from a frame is to apply smoke, remove the frame and then shake the bees off into the hive.  The remaining bees can be gently brushed off with a special brush. That is what Mr. HRK is doing in the photo above.  After each frame was assessed and Mr. HRK and Bruce decided to use it, they were removed to a separate box and covered with a towel so that the bees wouldn't follow the direction of the frames. Yes the bees will follow their precious honey once it is removed from the hive.




These are closeups of the honeycomb frames removed from the hive.




Extracting the Honey

 After the frames not to be used were placed back in the hive and the hive closed up, four beeswax frames  were taken to Mr. HRKs workshop for some serious scraping down of the frames.



This proved to be the messiest part of the whole process for us. Next time we will use  layers of cardboard on the concrete below to catch the drips and then the cardboard can be placed in the compost heap to complete the recycling process. Live and learn.



This proved to be quite hard work as frames covered in luscious honeycomb are heavy. The bucket collecting the honey and honeycomb was soon moved onto a milk crate so that Mr. HRK wasn't bending down as much and each frame was gently scraped with a special scraper so that only the capped cells were removed. He's trying not to scrape the foundation wax, note the holes oops!





Frames that are scraped this way and put back into the hive with honey still on the foundation are called "stickies" or a sticky. Not to be confused with a nice French dessert wine!!



Our young friend Dylan who lives nearby is supervising the process.


It will take about 3 weeks for the bees to clean these stickies up and start building new comb. The honey left on these stickies is after all the bee's food source so we wouldn't want them to go hungry.


The bucket of honey and beeswax was then covered and placed in the sun to warm it up so that it would be easier to separate and strain. Some of the moisture will also evaporate off.

The beeswax and honey was strained through two colanders, and then through a washed stocking into a large pot. Here's Dylan helping Mr. HRK to strain the honey. What a very helpful assistant he was.

Quite a few adult beekeepers that we have met were exposed to beekeeping in their family at an early age and developed a passion for it.







We now have a pot of  golden and pure honey.

The remaining Beeswax then needed to be rendered. Mr. HRK boiled it in water, to purify it and the beeswax then floated to the top as it cooled.



Below is the circular disc of beeswax waiting to be stored. It will still need to be processed further before it can be used. I am looking forward to using the beeswax in lots of interesting ways. In the photo you can see a dead bee that has been caught up when the honey was being extracted. Throughout this process, unfortunately it is inevitable that a few bees will be stuck in the honey.

 

Removing the frames and then replacing them causes the hive to become quite messy with some comb and honey dripping on the walls of the hive making it difficult for the bees to work in there as they can become stuck to the honey. Bees are very clean, tidy and meticulous about the state of their hive, and for the next few days the workers will be very busy cleaning up the hive so that their mates can get back to work making more honey.

Meanwhile the bees have to wait somewhere for the housework to be completed  so a lot of them are waiting outside until they can enter the hive again. This only really occurs late in the day and during the night, as during the day they are out foraging.

A cluster of bees
They also need lots more moisture than usual now, as they will use it to clean the hive and now there are bees drinking all day from our bird bath. We haven't seen them doing that before, and the weather is also warming up.  It is also quite interesting to observe how they are scaring the birds off from using the bird bath. It is a takeover by the bees. It is so interesting that our regular birds such as the Willy Wagtails, the Blue Faced Honeyeaters, the Friar birds, and Pee Wees who are naturally territorial  are daunted by the bees. Nature is amazing.

Everyone needs a little bit of sunshine and water, our garden does, our birds do and so do our bees.

Bees drinking from the birdbath and not a bird in sight. They prefer water that isn't crystal clear.

This time we harvested 6 kilos of honey from 3 1/2 honeycomb frames. We will now need to check the other frames in a couple of weeks as more may need to be harvested. Meanwhile our family and friends will benefit from a free sample of our honey. Mr. HRK and I think it is amazing honey, and  a consequence of our bees sourcing pollen from a variety of trees and bushes in our local area, as they can travel up to 5 kilometres to feed.

I would love to hear from you if you are reading our bee story and tell me of your bee experiences or even ask questions if you wish. We don't call ourselves experts by any means,  we are just learning as we go and are very fortunate that friends like Bruce and Keith have been very generous with their time and information along the way. Mr. HRK is the real expert but I am learning a lot as I try to write this story and take the photographs. The sharing of information among people who share a common passion makes the world go round. The method used to extract the honey in a tropical region like ours will be different to that used by beekeepers in cooler regions of the country. I have also tried not to use too much technical language about the processes, it will possibly creep into our bee stories along the track.

There is a comments box at the bottom of my blog however if this won't work for you, you can safely email me directly through the email search box on the right hand side panel on this blog. Just scroll down until you see it.

To my blogging friends I am really behind with reading your blogs which I love to do. Hopefully I will get to them soon.

The first story I wrote about our beehive back in July was very popular and can be found here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes

Pauline

Saturday, 5 October 2019

A Tropical Spring Carnival of Flowers, and a Bruce Highway Road Trip through Queensland




A long Queensland road trip mostly along the Bruce Highway, not exactly Route 66 but almost, and two weddings and admittedly we are still catching up on sleep in our own bed, bliss. We drove North from Mackay to Cairns in one hit (735 klms), just stopping for drinks and meals and then back to Mackay two weeks later after our daughter Shannon's fairytale wedding. We were home for four days, refreshed and caught up,  and then headed south for another wedding. 

We drove to Maryborough in one stretch (718 klms) from Mackay, with rest and food breaks of course, and stayed overnight in a motel and as this was something of a budget trip, and no restaurant reviews intended on this trip we dined that night at the Maryborough Returned Services Club (RSL). Mr. HRK loved it. He loves a bargain and good food at the best of times, and the RSL didn't disappoint. Of course it was full of locals playing Trivial Pursuit and Keno I think, but the variety of the dishes in the buffet was impressive and delicious at $12.00 a meal and the fast service a perfect fix for weary travellers like us. Of course there was a la carte available if you wanted a good steak and had the time to wait. Red wine was half the price of normal restaurant prices and then the dessert deal was a coffee and dessert for $5.00. I normally don't eat desserts in these situations now, but I couldn't go past the Lemon Meringue Pie, a large slice and absolutely delicious. No photos sorry.  We had smiles all over our faces when we left. It was good to connect with the Maryborough locals as well. It's a shame that RSL Club restaurants seem to be closing down in a lot of towns now. Given it's popularity in Maryborough, they might still have their place.

Interior of the RSL Club Maryborough
 I have a real soft spot for the Returned Services League. When I was just 21, I entered the Queensland Girl in a Million Quest, the main aim of which was to raise money for those serving in the Defence Forces and the Returned Servicemen from the World Wars and there were still quite a few still alive from World War 1 as well.  I  raised a lot of money by Pub Raffles, Cent Sales, cake stalls (yes even back then) and donations and it was a very worthwhile way of helping the less fortunate families affected by the World Wars. It wasn't really a beauty contest but a very worthwhile cause. I won the regional Rockhampton competition and went to Brisbane for the State Finals which was indeed an honour and was televised, and this experience brought me into contact with lots more returned servicemen when I visited  quite a few of the RSL Retirement Homes. It was a very memorable year, before I moved to Brisbane to work and live. Anyway I digress. Mr. HRK and I drove onto Brisbane (259 klms) from Maryborough for a couple of appointments,  and then up to Toowoomba for an overnight stay with Mr. HRK's sister, only 129 klms.

A glimpse of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Back to Brisbane for a beautiful wedding at Northshore Harbour, the same night as Riverfire, and a sail past by a P&O Cruise ship filled with cheering passengers during the pronouncement of the wedding vows was surely a highlight.The next day on Sunday we started the long drive home. An overnight stay in Rockhampton with my brother was a welcome respite and my sister in law Avy, effortlessly created an amazing home cooked meal for us and her visiting grandchildren of baked chicken,  spaghetti bolognaise, baked vegetables and and a delicious salad made with a freshly picked lettuce and beautiful tomatoes from a neighbours garden. She's a chip off the old block when it comes to cooking. My brother and I share a love of all things seafood, thanks to our Mum, and although he didn't have any freshly caught mudcrabs at home and he often does, he had some fresh Crystal Bay prawns from near Cardwell. Early next morning I made us prawn sandwiches, which were delicious for lunch on our way home to Mackay that day. 

For those of you who have no understanding of Queensland distances that totals 3,682  klms we had travelled. Phew, it was great to catch up with so many people, but it's good to be home. I think we might be getting a bit too old for that much road travel, and dear friends are you impressed with how I have managed to weave talk of food into my travels when that wasn't the whole reason for this story.

However what a great way to see our amazing state of Queensland, even though it is so very dry and drought stricken.  I wish more politicians could do such an extensive road trip instead of flying from A to B to really see what is happening in our state.   A lot of people complain about the poor state of the roads along the Bruce Highway,  the main one which connects the south of Queensland to the North, however there seem to be roadworks occurring near every town now which is encouraging. Toowoomba where Mr. HRK grew up, is the driest that he has ever seen it, and yet amazingly their Carnival of Flowers was still spectacular. We came home to our own Spring Tropical Carnival of flowers on a much smaller scale and now I am slowly regaining my gardening mojo. I never really lose my cooking mojo, do you, however it was nice to enjoy some meals cooked by others, and the wedding food was impressive, both in Cairns and Brisbane.

Here are a few photos of my plants and orchids in bloom that we arrived home to and I'll finish with a few from the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.

These are recently planted annuals and petunias

A Desert Rose growing as a bonsai


A delicate Cattleya



These are some of the lovely  Phalaenopsis orchids in flower. If you would like to know the specific names of them, please contact me and I will be happy to tell you.



Below is a soft cane dendrobium that my gardening friend Anne gave me a couple of years ago.This is the first flower it has produced. So delicate.




More photos of my Dendrobium Aggregatum below just because I love it and I now have two that are flowering.




The stunning pink flowers of the Fraser Island creeper. Pretty as a picture.


Below is the tough and resilient Brazilian Walking Iris. It's leaves walk away from the main plant and put down roots for new plants. A great plant for difficult areas, and sloping ones. It is such a pretty flower but they only seem to last a day. This plant is ideal for mass planting if space allows.



Below, this a beautiful soft cane dendrobium flower which is flowering for the first time on our lychee tree. I thought I had lost it as for most of the year they look as if they are dead. But then they rally and an advanced one is a mass of flowers. Glorious. Dendrobiums are happiest growing on trees.


The ever reliant red Hippeastrum bulbs growing in harmony with rosemary.



So my friends there you have it, our very own carnival of flowers in Mackay. Now we will move up a notch to:

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

Whilst we were in Toowoomba, we managed to visit the Carnival of Flowers with Mr. HRK's sister. This floral spectacular is always beautiful, and I am so appreciative of the hours and hours of work which has gone into making this annual event such an important one for Toowoomba, during dreadful drought conditions. I just love the beauty of the mass planting of annuals which can be achieved in a park.



This blue flowered bush was full of Italian bees and if anyone can tell me it's name I would love to know. Perhaps I can grow it in our backyard, our bees would love it.There wasn't a name label for this one that I could see.





Thomas the Tank Engine was a favourite for the young and not so young. Mr. HRK and I had fun taking a make believe ride on it for a photo  for our little grandson.



If you would like to see some more photos of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, Nanna Chel from Toowoomba always does a lovely report on them in her blog Going Grey and Slightly Green

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes

Pauline

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Malaysian Inspired Chicken and Sweet Potato Casserole




This Malaysian style chicken casserole is lightly spiced with the chicken cooked in a succulent sauce smoothed by coconut milk. It can be as spicy as you like by increasing the spice measurement, however if you follow this recipe it will be perfect. Simmered and cooked on the stove top you will be so pleased you made the effort as this is comfort food at its best. I cooked this for Shannon and Dan in Cairns two weeks ago, and at the end of a long working day and during the lead up to their wedding they were in raptures over it. It's hard to beat simple home cooking and it's so nice to be appreciated isn't it?

This is a short post my friends to say hello and I will be back writing and cooking on a regular basis in a week or so. I am in between two weddings at the moment. Our daughter Shannon's wedding at Kewarra Beach in Cairns just over a week ago was perfect, a fairytale wedding, and everything went beautifully as planned. They made such a radiant and happy couple and Mr. HRK and I were very proud.  Also the food was delicious cooked by the staff at Kewarra Resort. I'll share some photos with you one day when I can insert them into blogger. Another wedding to attend in Brisbane this Saturday night, coinciding with Riverfire,  and then it's back to a simple life until Christmas.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and it freezes very well if you want to double the quantities.


 Malaysian inspired chicken and sweet potato casserole

This simple chicken casserole made with chicken thighs lends itself to so many interesting variations. This is one of them, with heaps of flavour, and doesn't take too long to cook.

Serves 4-6 people.

1/2 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (organic if possible for even better flavour)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 3 cm pieces so that the potato doesn't break down
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon grated fresh turmeric (optional) or use a couple of teaspoons of good quality powdered
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coriander leaves

Method:

Combine the flour, cayenne and cinnamon. Halve the thighs, remove some of the fat and toss in the flour. In a large casserole dish, heat the oil, add the chicken pieces and brown and cook them. Then set it aside, covered. Add the onion, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and chilli to the pan, and cook stirring gently for 5 minutes.


Return the chicken to the pot; add the stock, and simmer covered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.

Freshly made chicken stock



Add the coconut milk, and cook for 5 minutes.



Serve with your favourite cooked rice and chopped coriander, or vegetables.
This dish improves even more in flavour if left to rest in the frig for a day or two.

This recipe is adapted from David Herbert's recipe column in the Australian Newspaper magazine.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline