Monday, 11 February 2019

To Beehive or not to Beehive


We returned from holidays to discover to our surprise and excitement that there was an active beehive on  one of our palm trees in the backyard. A couple of years ago Mr. HRK built a bird box hoping to attract some nesting birds. Well they haven't take up his offer, preferring to nest in our large  Paperbark tree and the Golden Penda tree, however a swarm of European honey bees have moved in, with presumably the Queen Bee happily ensconced in her new home, and the hive surrounding the Bird box continues to grow.  There is probably quite a lot of honey inside already. So we are now sharing our environment with these beautiful, industrious and fragile creatures which we know little about. Bees in Australia are among the  most disease free in the world, however they still face many threats.

With all of this in mind we have slept on our situation for a couple of weeks now, wondering if we should just leave the hive there  so that the bees will fertilise our garden plants and improve our environment, or move them to a hive where we can protect them a lot better and can also enjoy the honey they produce. The risk is that the hive will outgrow our bird box and the bees will move on. We have decided to try and move the bees to a proper hive. After talking to a couple of local apiarists, Mr. HRK is now building two wooden beehive boxes based on the measurements of one he has borrowed, as strangely all the measurements available for building your own beehive are in imperial.




So the bee hive boxes are almost built, and the next stage before the next deluge of rain comes is to move our hive to one of the newly constructed beehive boxes. We will need to order a second Queen bee and have her delivered in the post in a capsule to start the second hive. If you  watched Catalyst, about the Great Australian Bee Challenge competition on the ABC, you might remember that one of the families also needed to do that. So we are busily collecting information, reading all we can about the process, so watch this space. It's an exciting thought to have two beehives in our suburban garden. By all accounts, the bees thrive better in suburban gardens than in the bush, because there are always flowers in suburban gardens, whereas during the dry conditions or heavy rain in the bush there may be nothing flowering for them to feed on.

The second episode of our beehive story is in progress and I hope to tell you about it soon. Life is never dull in our backyard. Moving beehives  a metre at a time is a story in itself and ours is no different. That is the next story to be told.




Gordon, our wise gnome, and a Christmas present from our daughter, is keeping an eye on the situation.

Here a couple of ideas for delicious Summer salads. These were made by Paul, a good food loving friend of ours. He just possesses the knack on how to prepare an attractive salad.



More garden news. Recently our Golden Penda was flowering and the visiting Lorikeets put on a quite a show at our nearby watering hole. They didn't seem to mind that it was just water in there, and they were so noisy and possessive of the bird bath.








Thanks very much to those of you who have sent well wishes already about my mouth surgery. I survived 2 hours of sitting in a comfortable dental chair, in hospital surgery conditions, but saved myself $2,000 by not having it done in a hospital operating room.The dental surgeon and the dental assistants were so caring and attentive. Today I am recuperating with a swollen face, no more bleeding, but not much pain thanks to some medication, so I think it went well. I'll make the most of having a sickie today:) Mr. HRK is being very attentive and cooked delicious scrambled eggs for brekkie. I am still on soft foods, and am looking forward to the ice cream for dessert.

Take care everyone,

Cheerio,

Pauline.


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Peach, Blackberry and Yoghurt Dessert Cake





The very thought of cooking this peach and blackberry cake has been quite exciting to me. The quality of the fruit is excellent at the moment, and the photo of this cake in the latest monthly Fresh magazine has had me salivating over it for a couple of weeks.  My Friends, I'm sure you know what I mean. The stone fruit season is very short here in the North, and with the Townsville floods, fresh fruit has been in short supply. Who would have thought that all of the fresh supermarket produce for Mackay, is flown into Townsville and trucked down here, at least 4 hours away.  During the floods, it just didn't arrive. After baking this cake, I have decided that it is best served as a dessert, and not for afternoon tea, however with oodles of whipped cream, it would probably be very acceptable as part of a High Tea.  I also needed to make a Sunday cake, comfort food for the soul, as early tomorrow morning I am having gum surgery for two teeth implants. HELP!!


I won't go into the details but I will be in very good hands with an experienced dental surgeon. I know that I will be a little fragile for a few days and soft foods will be on my menu. I've told Mr. HRK that the frig and freezer are at his disposal, they are well stocked, but I will be having soups, eggs, and ice cream. 


When I wrote the caption on this photo of the uncooked cake, I wasn't thinking of myself but of the residents of Townsville who are still struggling to restore their homes and lives. This photo is of the cake before it was cooked, and shows the effort I took to arrange the peach and blackberry slices decoratively. However when the cake cooked, the batter rose up over most of the peaches, hence the result in the photo at the top. Whilst the recipe said to slice the peaches thinly, I would suggest if you are making the cake to slice them a little thicker and very loosely on top of the cake. The advantages of having a test kitchen and a team of photographers etc at one's disposal to produce an amazing photo such as in the magazine can't be underestimated. However the cake still tastes delicious, isn't too sweet,  is packed with fruit,  and honestly in my home situation it's not all about looks is it?

Let's Cook:

Ingredients:

160g butter softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 cup Greek yoghurt
2 free range eggs, at room temperature
3 firm yellow peaches, halved, and destoned with skin on
125g punnet blackberries
1/4 cup peach or apricot jam
Thickened cream, to serve




Let's cook:

Dice 1 1/2 peaches and set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C. Grease a 22 cm spring form cake pan and line the base with baking paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together with your electric mixer or Kitchen Aid until well mixed, and pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, individually, beating well after each one.
Sift the flour and baking powder together, and add gradually to the mixing bowl on a slow speed until just combined.



Stir the diced peaches gently into the cake mixture. This is where it is important that the flesh is firm so that it doesn't break down too much in the cake.



Spoon the mixture into the cake pan. Slice the remaining peaches  into thick wedges, and arrange over the surface decoratively, overlapping the slices. Scatter the blackberries on top of the peaches.The fruit shouldn't be pressed into the cake batter at all, but placed loosely on top,  as the cake will rise and we want the fruit slices to keep their integrity on top of the cake.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean it is cooked.

While the cake is cooking, heat the peach jam and 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Strain the melted jam and brush the clear jam liquid over the hot cake.



The cake is delicious served with whipped cream as a dessert.

Take care and thanks for coming by, I'll be in touch:)
Have a great week,

Pauline.







Wednesday, 6 February 2019

It's Chilli Con Carne on a Rainy day


Hello everyone from the wet North. I am thinking of hot and spicy foods as the weather is still quite cool with the rain bucketing down, as the Monsoonal trough still hovers over us. No complaints though, as we aren't suffering from flooding on the same scale that Townsville is. My heart goes out to them. Chilli Con Carne is nothing new as a main meal dish, and is still popular in most households. It has stood the test of time, as has other Mexican food. After all the Christmas foods we consumed, I needed something spicy to eat but also simple to make. I didn't cook this when little Hugo, our two and a half year old grandson was here as I thought it might be too spicy for him, and his Mother is French and doesn't like spicy foods, so I was really looking forward to the earthy spiciness of this dish for a change.

I thought I had all of the essential ingredients in my pantry, as I always have cans of tomatoes, kidney beans, paprika, mince etc.  I was ready to start cooking, and when I opened my pantry I discovered that there wasn't a single can of tomatoes on the shelf. Don't you just groan when that happens?  Then it dawned on me that my no. 1 son had made a delicious huge pot of pasta sauce when they were here, and the tomatoes hadn't been replenished. Has this ever happened to you? No complaints from me though as I love it when my children start cooking in the kitchen when they are visiting.



Out of this situation however came some improvisation and a good idea, as I spotted the jars of tomato passata I had made four years ago and hadn't been used up yet. Miraculously the contents of the large jar I opened were still perfect and the flavour had mellowed beautifully. I remembered that I had made this passata when I had kilos of beautiful Bowen Roma tomatoes, and my passata was a variation of my tomato relish recipe, and a little experimental at the time. So I used the passata instead of canned tomatoes and also used a sachet of bought tomato paste for a little more acidity and flavour and the result was delicious. Mr. HRK loved it. Not too hot but earthy  and perfectly spicy, just how we like it and with a lot of flavour. You can find my tomato passata recipe here.



All of those jars of homemade preserves, relishes, and pickles etc never go astray and can be the vital addition to a meal, and they last a long time if everything is very clean and sterilised to start with. However in this recipe for Chilli con Carne, you can just substitute canned tomatoes for the passata.

Ingredients:

750g lean beef mince
125 g chopped bacon
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped finely
2 red capsicums
1 cayenne chilli (the long red one)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 tablespoons Mexican chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it)
1 large bottle of passata and 1 sachet of tomato paste (or 800g can chopped tomatoes)
1 cup of water
400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped avocado and chopped tomato for serving.

Method:

Fry the bacon in the olive oil over a moderate heat until crisp. Add the mince and onions, stirring with a spoon to break up the mince until it is browned, about 15 minutes.

Add the capsicums,  and chopped chilli. Cook until the vegetables are soft and then add the chilli powder. Stir this for a further minute or so until the you can smell the fragrance of the chilli powder.

Add the tomato passata, tomato paste, or can of tomatoes and 1 cup of cold water. Bring this to the boil and return to a simmer.

Continue to cook the pot on a low heat until the sauce has thickened and liquid has reduced.

Serve the chilli with rice and whatever toppings you enjoy. I love it with sour cream, and chopped lettuce and tomato and avocado if I have them. I also like to spoon a little of my Sweet Chilli Jam over the sour cream. YUM!

Enjoy and thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes,

Pauline


Sunday, 3 February 2019

A very healthy Cypriot Grain Salad


This Grain Salad encapsulates all that is healthy and delicious, and as we are now being told in the best interests of our health and the planet to reduce our meat consumption and increase the amount of healthy grains, fruit and vegetables in our diet I thought I would give this one a try. If like me you haven't delved into the world of grain salads very much, this one is great to start with. I always have a variety of leftover grains, nuts and lentils in jars in my pantry so I already had most of the ingredients on hand. I chose quinoa as the main grain as I wanted to use what I had left, however cracked wheat, freekah (green wheat), or bulgur, would work equally as well.  This salad recipe isn't an original one, I have tweeked it a little bit, but it is a George Calombaris recipe which I had tasted at a luncheon recently and saved the recipe, so here it is. The coriander and parsley combined with the dressings bring it to life. However dear reader if you don't like coriander, then leave it out and  substitute something else.

Honestly, there are simpler versions of this salad out there, but toasting the nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds brings out their unique flavours and crunch so for a special occasion this is worthwhile. It takes no time at all to toast the pumpkin seeds so my advice is not to leave the stove while you are toasting grains. I had a close call at Christmas time when I was toasting pine nuts in a small frypan on the stove for the traditional Wombok salad, got distracted by all the excitement, and well you guessed it, there were  a few burnt ones as a result. Mr. HRK very kindly picked them out for me, and life went on, however lesson learned. Has that ever happened to you?

 I prepared this salad on the day prior to us eating it, and then just garnished it with the Cumin Yoghurt Dressing and pretty pomegranate seeds just before serving it. The beauty of a Grain Salad is that even though it is dressed with a light salad dressing, it is still fresh two days later.


This went beautifully with my Mediterranean Chicken Marbella recipe and a green salad.

Chicken Marbella, a delicious tray bake
Cypriot Grain Salad
Ingredients:
1/2 red onion finely diced
1 cup of quinoa (or freekah, bulgur or other grain)
1/2 cup Puy lentils
1 bunch chopped coriander
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
2 tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp. toasted slivered almonds
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp. baby capers
1/2 cup currants
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1 pomegranate, deseeded to serve

Cumin Yoghurt Dressing: - 

1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground (essential)
1 tbsp. honey

Method:

Boil quinoa and lentils separately  in boiling water until both are just cooked. Drain very well and allow to cool.

Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl, except the yoghurt dressing,  and mix well. Season to taste. Whisk the oil and lemon juice dressing in a small jar until it emulsifies and add to the grains.This can now be left covered in the jar in the refrigerator for a day if necessary.



Just before eating, place the grain salad in a serving dish and top with the delicious Cumin Yoghurt.

Garnish and decorate with pomegranate seeds.

I will be cooking fairly simple and tasty foods now, that don't take much time to prepare, as I have resumed writing my other blog,  the history of my Great Great Grandfather, Thomas Dudgeon,  who was a successful Landscape Artist in Scotland and Ireland.  Mr. HRK has been researching the genealogy of my family for a long time and finally I have decided to write it up as a blog, and who knows, maybe publish it at a later date. I really enjoy the process of writing, and am loving being able to write up  in Thomas's interesting life and also that of my Great Grandmother, Ellen Stella DeLandelles, who was his daughter. If you would like to take a peek at the latest post (no. 12) that I wrote this is the link: There is also a summary of it as a post that may be easier to read. I also need to do some work on the layout of the pages so that will take some time.

As I write this I am also thinking of all the residents in Townsville, 4 hours North of here by car,  who are really doing it tough with loss of power, serious flooding, and being isolated. This weather event is unprecedented in Townsville. Townsville is normally considered quite a dry area, and when we lived there for ten years in the 1980's, it was so dry and hot that many of us were sinking a water bore in our backyards. Rain has also started here in Mackay again so I am hoping that means the rain is moving south from Townsville or back out to sea. Time will tell. It's good writing weather, and shortly I will have a pot of chicken stock simmering on the stove. It's good soup weather while the rain lasts.

Best wishes my friends and I hope you have a safe and enjoyable week. Thanks for visiting.

Pauline






Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Succulent and Saucy Nannygai Fish Wings





We were given a kilo of Nannygai fish wings by friends who went on a a fishing trip to the Great Barrier Reef out from Mackay. They caught a lot of fish. I'm not sure whether these were small mouth Nannygai (Crimson Snapper) or Large mouth Nannygai, however both are beautiful eating fish, and I think it would have been easier from what I have read to catch the small mouth ones. Large Fish Wings like this can be found at the fish markets in large cities or direct from fish suppliers, but often they are just made into pet food or discarded which is such a shame, because the wings from large reef fish like these Nannies still contain a lot of meat. I put these straight into the freezer when I brought them home, hoping for inspiration at a later date on what to do with them. The wings from any large fish could be used for this recipe.

This is the recipe I came up with and they were delicious. Baking Fish Wings ensures the flesh is tender and moist and well cooked and then adding the sauce when hot produces a meal which I think could be served proudly in any restaurant. I'm not one for deep frying anymore, as I don't have a proper deep fryer now, and I'm a bit reluctant to attempt this style of cooking in an ordinary saucepan, however deep frying is certainly an option with these and equally delicious. How do you feel about deep frying?



It's the Summer of Seafood, Salads and the beach here in the Queensland Tropics and this is my first post for the year. Happy New Year to all my friends reading this, and to my blogging friends, I will slowly catch up on what you have all been doing. I hope you had a relaxing Christmas. We had a big family Christmas in Cairns and followed that with a nice and relaxing holiday at beautiful Kuranda up on the Atherton Tablelands. What a beautiful spot, and although it was quite wet that didn't deter us in any way from enjoying the splendour of freshwater swimming holes, no crocodiles, the luxuriant rainforest, and lots of delicious local mangoes and fresh fruits.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:
1 kg Nannygai or Snapper Fish Wings
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. white wine or verjuice
1 cup water
2 long red cayenne chillis, finely sliced
5 cm piece ginger, finely shredded (1 tblsp.)
100 ml fish sauce
Juice of 3 limes
1 Kaffir lime leaf, finely shredded
2 lemons

Baking the wings:

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Lay the wings in a single layer on the tray. Pour over the juice of two lemons and cover the tray tightly with alfoil.
Cook in a moderate oven for 20 minutes until the  fish flesh is almost cooked through. Remove the alfoil and cook for another 10 minutes until the fish is well cooked and the fins are slightly crisped up.

Making the sauce:

Bring sugar and water to the boil, simmer until sauce caramelises, about 6 minutes. Stir through the ginger, chilli, soy sauce, lime leaf, wine and fish sauce. Remove pan from the heat and set aside to slightly cool.

Bring the sauce back to the boil, add the lime juice to create a balanced flavour of salty, sweet, spicy and sour.

To Serve:

Remove the fish wings from the oven and place onto a serving dish.

Carefully pour the sauce over the wings and serve immediately with shredded chilli as a garnish over the wings.

Cooking for my family and spending as much time as possible with our Grandson Hugo, still only aged two and half, has taken up a lot of my time over the holidays. However I also enjoyed reading quite a few books. These were my favourites:

Geraldine Brooks - People of the Book. Sydney, HarperCollins Australia, 2014 (A well researched book, set mostly in Bosnia,  about the restoration by a renowned conservator of the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. This book pieces together the secrets of the Haggadah's miraculous survival over five centuries of history. A story about war, love, art, and survival.) I loved it.

Mira Stout - One Thousand Chestnut Trees. London, Flamingo, 1998. (Mira Stout explores the extraordinary history of twentieth century Korea from 1936 as the Japanese strip away the lands and titles of the Koreans, and Anna's family's survival during the war, and her Mother's eventual escape to the U.S. in 1951. This book made me realise that I knew little about the turbulent history of Korea.) A great read.

For a lighter style novel, I read The Last Dance by Fiona McIntosh just because I needed to and a friend lent me the book.  Fiona is an Australian author from South Australia, writes well researched and entertaining historical adventure romances, and I am now a fan. She also loves to cook and has a cooking blog, which I intend to explore.

Now it's about getting back to the normal daily routines of simple living, doing a bit of this and a bit of that including reading, cooking and sewing, and planning our year.

It's good to be back blogging.

Best wishes for 2019,

Pauline

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Dulce de Leche Banana Bread and Merry Christmas


How can any cake with Dulce de Leche, sour cream and chocolate in its list of ingredients not be absolutely delicious? This one certainly is. Dulce de Leche, made by boiling tinned condensed milk for a couple of hours  to make real caramel, lasts for ages in the refrigerator as well, as long as it is hidden from the man of the house, ha, ha. I boiled four cans of condensed milk early in September and this is the last one to be used. However it can also be purchased at gourmet deli shops. I used my largest loaf tin for this cake, the one I bake my largest loaf of sourdough bread in and it was the perfect size. That was probably the most difficult decision I had to make, otherwise this was a cinch to make.

It's holiday time, so happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone. I've really enjoyed hearing from you all during the year and reading your blogs as well. I hope you spend Christmas with the people that you love, doing the things that you enjoy, and eating the foods that comfort and excite you. I will be.

This recipe is adapted from a Delicious Magazine recipe. Thanks Delicious.

Ingredients:

Makes approx. 14 slices

2 cups (300g) plain flour, sifted
 1 1/4 cups (300g) sour cream
100 ml thickened cream
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
250g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder
50g dark chocolate chips
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup (100g) walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/3 cup (110g) dulce de leche
125g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbs espresso, cooled

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. Grease a 28 x 12 cm loaf pan (mine was a little bigger)and line the base and the sides with baking paper. (I used the largest loaf pan I own for this recipe, which is the one I bake a loaf of bread in.)



Add the sour cream, thickened cream and bicarb soda to a large bowl which will serve to mix the whole mixture.. Lightly combine this mix, and set aside for 10 minutes, when bubbles will appear through the surface.

Add the cooled melted butter, the sugar, and the beaten eggs, and stir to combine.

Stir through the cinnamon, the flour, and the baking powder.
Add the dark chocolate chips, the mashed banana, and half the walnuts.
Fold through the dulce de leche .





Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean . If it browns too quickly cover with foil, I didn't need to do this.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine the icing sugar and the espresso coffee until a soft icing forms, I didn't need to use all of the espresso to achieve the right consistency. Drizzle over the banana bread and top with the remaining crushed walnuts.This icing is so very delicious.

Until next year, stay safe.

Warmest wishes

Pauline  x



Friday, 14 December 2018

A touch of Christmas Red in our Tropical Garden



This morning the sky was blue, and the garden looking lovely, despite the ominous warnings of the impending cyclone, named Owen. However as the day has drawn on, the weather has become more sultry, the skies cloudy, and the weather forecasts are changing by the hour it seems. I think that the media drives a lot of these reports however the average person is over a barrel in determining what is actually happening, and often it is a wait and see game. We should see some weather action here  by Tuesday.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my garden turning on it's red Christmas lights, without any batteries or electricity involved, just the sun and the rain. The African Blood Lillies appeared without any fanfare and are stealing the show, and the rain has certainly helped their bulbs to multiply and produce magnificent blooms this year.

African Blood Lilly




Medinilla


Bromeliad flower


I hope you enjoy your weekend my friends. I have had enough of the shops this Christmas. I think that one of the solutions to a stress free Christmas is to stay away from the shops and shopping centres as much as possible.  All of my Christmas shopping and wrapping is done, our Christmas letter written, Christmas menu partly planned (of course), edible gifts distributed, and now I am preparing batches of Rum Balls, and whatever else I find time to do. 

I have been surprised, frustrated  and dismayed at the amount of up selling that department store staff are trying on this year with every customer. Surely this must result in overspending by many people which becomes very stressful when the credit card is due in January. No doubt the message and training is coming from upper management to shop staff to try and sell as much as possible above and beyond what the customer came into the shop for. Oh well it didn't work with me.

On the kitchen front, I made a delicious cake loaf yesterday, which I hope to share with you in the next couple of days, combining Dulce de Leche, banana, spice and all things nice. Stay tuned for that. Hopefully I will get back to blogging in the next couple of days.

Take care everyone and I hope you have Christmas preparations under control and don't feel stressed out by it all. 

Best wishes

Pauline