Thursday, December 3, 2015

Deconstructed Cheesy Cabbage Rolls

Deconstructed Cheesy Cabbage Rolls

Jump to the recipe here:

I had to try this recipe from Not Quite Nigella's blog, one of my favourites by Lorraine Elliott,  as soon as I saw it. I had a busy day coming up, and a meal waiting for me in the slow cooker when I arrived home from Mahjong just sounded perfect. It didn't disappoint, and now I can't get enough of it. It is pure comfort food, even though it is very hot weather in the North. Because I made a large quantity I have been able to experiment with a little tweeking for variation. Today we ate it with my homemade mango chutney which was delicious.

I also added a few extra ingredients when I cooked it. A couple of rashers of chopped bacon, as bacon marries so well with cabbage, two chopped large red chillies for some zing, and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, perfect. However, it can stand alone without the chillies, bacon, or thyme as on Lorraine's original recipe. Cabbage is such a resilient vegetable and doesn't disintegrate at all during long slow cooking, or if cooked in the pressure cooker.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes (pressure cooker), 1 hr. 10 mins (stovetop), 7 hours (slow cooker)


2 SPRIGS OF THYME (optional)

  • Heat a frypan on medium heat and add the oil. Fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Turn up the heat to medium high and add the mince, chillies and bacon breaking  up the mince with a large spoon. Transfer the whole mixture to your slow cooker or pressure cooker, or just a very large cast iron pot for the stove. I am lucky that I have an outside power point on my patio bench, so I plug the slow cooker in there to keep the heat out of the kitchen.
  • Add the tomatoes, cabbage, thyme leaves and tomato paste to the pot.
  • Cook the slow cooker for 6 hours, the pressure cooker for 20 minutes, and for the cast iron pot, cook for 1 hour.
  • Add the macaroni and cook for the following additional times: pressure cooker 5 minutes, slow cooker 40 minutes, cast iron pot 10 minutes. Stir through the cheese  and serve.
Best wishes


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

It's time for biscotti at Christmas time

Nigella's Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

To my way of thinking, this biscotti spells Christmas, with the lovely red cranberries and pistachio nuts specifying a festive event. A lot of ingredients are interchangeable in biscotti, eg pistachio nuts can be substituted with almonds as can the dried fruits, but this is a spectacular combination. The orange zest freshens up the whole biscuit. 

Traditionally, biscotti is meant to be dipped when eating in a sweet dessert wine, however Nigella Lawson in Nigelissima suggests a ruby port. Whatever takes your fancy really I think, even a cup of tea will do, these biscuits are just meant to be savoured over and dipped.

Makes 15, excluding the end pieces. I know I will need to bake another batch. 


FRESH NUTMEG (it should be grated off a whole nutmeg for best flavour)

Let's cook:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. /gas Mark 4.

Beat or whisk the egg and sugar until pale and moussy. Beat in the orange zest, then slowly fold in the flour mixed with the baking powder and a good grating of fresh nutmeg.

Fold in the whole pistachios and dried cranberries. Flour your kitchen bench well, and also your hands, as it is a sticky mixture. Now form the dough into a flattish, oval ciabatta-like loaf, approx. 25x5cm, and taper the ends slightly.

Lay the biscotti dough loaf carefully onto a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray and cook for 25-30 minutes, it should be a pale, brown colour. (I use a long and wide icing spatula knife to do this.) Rotate the baking sheet halfway through the cooking time, as the base can brown quickly.

Transfer the cooked loaf to a wire rack and leave for 5 minutes to harden slightly, then using a fine serrated-edged knife, slice the baked loaf diagonally into fingers about 1 cm thick.

These look bigger in the photo than they actually are.

Place the slices back onto the baking parchment covered tray and cook again for another 10 minutes, and then turn the biscotti over and cook for yet another 5 minutes.

Allow the golden-brown biscotti to cool on a rack and then store them in an airtight container. They will keep for a few weeks, as long as they are well hidden.

So, my friends, how are your Christmas preparations progressing? We are travelling away for Christmas so I need to have my baking finished well in advance. I would love to hear from you about your Christmas baking plans. I know many more people are reading my blog than comment, so it would be nice to hear from you. Comments box at the bottom of this blog.

Best wishes

Pauline xx

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Making your own Mango chutney, a Christmas tradition in North Queensland

Bowen mangoes, and part of the latest batch of mango chutney. 

Mango chutney recipe

 There were always bottles of homemade mango chutney  in the house when I was growing up in Rockhampton, in Central Queensland,  as it was an annual tradition to make a batch before Christmas, for family and friends, just as the common mango trees were fruiting. The challenge was and still is, to pick the mangoes before they ripened on the trees. In those days most people had a mango tree growing in their back yard, or had friends who did. These days, mangoes can be bought pretty cheaply from the farmers markets, or from roadside stalls, on the Northern Bruce Highway. They will probably be seconds, or second grade fruit, which is fine, as the commercial supplies of mangoes are shipped to the southern markets and overseas as soon as they are picked.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fruity Noughat slice, an economical fruit and nut biscuit slice

Fruity Noughat Slice

At this time of year, during the lead up to Christmas when we are making our Fruit cakes, Plum puddings, and Mince pies, this slice is an economical way of using up the leftover packets of mixed dried fruit and nuts. It is also just a quick slice recipe to have in your repertoire in case visitors pop in. It takes no time at all to throw together, and the ingredients can be varied depending on what you have in  your pantry. My Mum's generation liked to ice everything, and I still like to as well, however this slice can stand alone without the icing. Another shortcut when in a hurry.

The recipe is based on an original of my Mum's, with the rolled oats and golden syrup or honey added, a take from our friend Paul's recipe. I have reduced the amount of sugar in the interest of self preservation, however if you omit the golden syrup, you could use 3/4 of a cup of sugar or leave it as it is. Mixed fruit is a sweetener in itself. 

Just follow this recipe and I promise it will be great. Another vintage style recipe that works beautifully.


½ cup white or brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup or honey
1 cup SR flour
1 cup of mixed dried fruit and nuts. Various mixed dried fruits, chopped dates, sultanas, cherries and/or mixed nuts (pecans, walnuts) up to a cup.
125g butter, melted
1 beaten egg
1 cup coconut (dessicated or shredded)
1 cup rolled oats
1 lemon
Icing sugar

Mix together the sugar, coconut, flour, oats, fruit and nuts. Add beaten egg, golden syrup and melted butter.  Mix well.

Press into a greased lamington tin.

Bake in a moderate oven 25-30 minutes until set.

Allow to cool. Ice with lemon icing, however it is delicious enough to stand alone without icing.

Jump straight to the recipe here:

Best wishes,


Monday, November 16, 2015

Moroccan Orange Blossom and Cardamon Yoghurt Cake

Moroccan Orange Blossom and Cardamon Yoghurt Cake

This is a festive cake combining some favourite aromatic spices, with orange blossom water, and pomegranates. It tastes so amazingly good, that I am tempted to change years of tradition at Christmas, and replace my fruit cake with this light and exotic taste sensation. It even looks like a Christmas cake, with the visual appeal of the pomegranates  and the explosion of taste that they deliver. 

I am babysitting a friends little boy today so this is being written in a bit of a hurry, while he sleeps. Believe me though, this is a cake well worthy trying.

This recipe requires a 2L (25cm)  bundt cake pan and Serves 6.
No electric mixer is required for this recipe just a whisk, a mixing spoon and a large bowl.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Borani Banjan (Layered Afghan Eggplant or Aubergines)

Layered Afghan Eggplant and Aubergines or Borani Banjan

Jump to recipe here:

A rich, luscious eggplant dish, with so many aromatic Middle Eastern flavours, complimented by the combined flavours of Greek yoghurt and garlic salt. Even better, this is an eggplant recipe that Mr. HRK enjoys. When I discovered that I could grow eggplant easily, quite a few eggplant dishes appeared on my menus, perhaps I overdid it a little or maybe even a lot. He was struggling with them, so I gave in and had a break from eggplant for a while. He still struggles a bit with most eggplant dishes, but this is one that he finally really enjoys. Great news, as I love eggplant, and so do most of our friends. This is a winner! I hope you enjoy it as well.


2 medium Italian eggplants or 4 medium size Japanese eggplants (Enough for 2 layers of cooked eggplant in your baking dish)
3 medium tomatoes, cut in 1/3 inch thick slices
8 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground curry powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup chopped fresh coriander or cilantro
1 cup Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp. Garlic salt

The eggplant needs to be sliced and cooked until it is soft. Slice off the ends of your eggplants, and cut them in half lengthwise, not across. Then cut each half across in 1/3 inch thick slices. I fried the eggplant in batches in a medium heat frypan in olive oil, being careful not to burn them or you can cook them under your oven grill as follows.

Turn on your oven grill. Slice off the ends of your eggplants, and cut them in half lengthwise, not across. Then cut each half across in 1/3 inch thick slices.Arrange the eggplant slices on two baking sheets on baking trays, drizzle with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Place the baking trays under the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and adjust the oven to  a moderate heat, 180 deg. C, or 375 deg. F.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan and saute the garlic over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to let it brown. Add the remaining spices, 1 tsp. garlic salt, turmeric, curry, paprika, pepper, and tomato paste. Stir this mixture together and cook for another minute. Add the chicken stock to the pan, stir, and turn the heat to high.When the liquid comes to the boil, turn it down and let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Pour 1/3 of the liquid into a 9x12 inch baking dish, or even a bit smaller, spreading it across the bottom of the dish. Arrange half the eggplant on top of the sauce. Sprinkle half the coriander over the eggplant and then layer the tomato slices evenly on the eggplant.

 Pour on another third of the sauce. Repeat the layering with the remaining eggplant, coriander, and tomatoes. Finish the dish by drizzling the last of the sauce over the vegetables, ensuring that all the vegetables are covered.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil and cookl it in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 5 minutes.

 Final step:

Mix together the Greek yoghurt and garlic salt. Pour the yoghurt sauce over the eggplant and serve with pita or naan bread.

Serves four to six people as a main, or many more as a vegetable dish on the side.

Adapted from a recipe by Zohra Ghilzai.

Jump to recipe here:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

It's time for Basil Pesto

Basil pesto

Jump to Basil Pesto recipe

Preparing to make pesto

An early trip to the farmer's market this morning, despite the rain, and I now a have a whole, fragrant and  luscious sweet basil plant for three dollars. The basil plants in my garden aren't at the stage where I can harvest enough leaves for pesto. Probably because I am drawing on them regularly for other dishes, and they are mostly self seeded, so they are still fairly immature plants. However, I have plenty of flat leaf parsley growing so perhaps a pesto combo of basil and parsley could also be fun.

So basil and homemade pizza are on the menu this weekend. Along with sweet corn, sugar bananas, red paw paw and rough leaf pineapple, also sourced at the markets and grown locally. Mr. HRK loves the fresh pineapple and paw paw.

Jump to Basil Pesto recipe

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Vintage Date Biscuits, my Mother's recipe

For my recipe, click here

Date Rollettes

Dates have become a standard item in most kitchens, being used for all kinds of exotic Middle Eastern dishes to cakes, breads and  desserts. Whilst I generally buy the Medjool dates, for this recipe I think that some of those are too large for biscuits and the quantity of biscuit mixture won’t stretch very far, unless you double it of course. I used a few smaller Medjool dates, but then converted to the packaged Trident brand, which are smaller and standard in size,  however any brand of commercially available dates will do. 

This is my Mother’s recipe, when Medjool dates weren't readily available, and baking them brought back all sorts of fond memories. The challenge though is converting vintage recipes in Imperial measurements to Metric. There are lots of great websites now that assist with the conversion, however I still use the Imperial measurement on my scales so that the quantities are exact. 4 oz butter can weigh slightly differently to 4 oz sugar.

Biscuits smell amazing when they are cooking and don’t take that long to cook. They will keep for over a week in a covered container, however they will never last that long in my house.



  • 4 oz butter = 1/2 cup = 113.4g
  • 8 oz S.R.Flour = 227g
  • 18 dates
  • 4 oz sugar = 113g
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup milk
Let's cook:

Cream butter and sugar. When well mixed and white in colour, add well beaten egg, then slowly add flour.

Roll a date in a spoonful of mixture. Mould into uniform oblong shapes, or whatever shape you like.

Roll each biscuit into a little milk, and then into desiccated coconut.

Bake in a moderate oven at 180 deg. F. or 375 deg. C. for around 20 minutes depending on the heat of your oven, and until nicely browned. Check their progress after 15 minutes.

An original recipe by Pauline, Happy Retirees Kitchen

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sweet cherry tomato sausage tray bake

Sweet Cherry Tomato Sausage Tray Bake

Thank you Jamie Oliver for the idea to cook another amazing tray bake dish. Using robust herbs like thyme, rosemary and bay leaf, lots of cherry tomatoes, and the best Italian pork sausages you can buy, or any flavoursome sausages really, you end up with an intense combination of caramelised gooey tomato flavours and roasted sausage. Who doesn't love eating sausages?


2 kg lovely ripe  cherry tomatoes, or mixed colours if possible
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried oregano, or more if using fresh
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
12 Italian pork sausages
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 190 deg. C. Use a roasting tray large enough to accommodate all of your tomatoes in one snug fitting layer. Put in all the tomatoes, herb sprigs, oregano, garlic and sausages.

Drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss all the ingredients together, and then move the sausages to the top. Place the tray into the oven for half an hour. After this time, give the tray a shake and turn the sausages over. Put back into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how sticky and well cooked you like your sausages. The longer you cook the dish, the more caramelised your tomatoes will be. Delicious!

You should have an intense, tomatoey sauce by now. If you think your tomato sauce is a little too thin, lift out the sausages, and place the tray on the stove hotplate and cook it down to the required consistency. When it is quite thick, add the sausages back in. Keep warm in the oven until you are ready to eat.

Check your seasoning and add more salt or pepper.

Serve with crusty bread, mashed potato, rice or polenta. Add a green salad and a glass of wine and you will think you are in heaven.

Jamie says any leftovers, if there are any, should be chopped up the next day, and added to some penne or rigatoni to make a wonderful chunky pasta dish. Great idea!

Best wishes


Monday, September 7, 2015

Julia's Chocolate Chip Tray Bake Slice

Chocolate Chip Tray Bake Slice

We drove up to Eungella Dam yesterday to visit Julia and Dave who were staying there for a couple of nights in their caravan. Despite the extremely dry conditions, the Dam was still looking beautiful. An enjoyable excursion to the Eungella Lookout in their 4 wheel drive before lunch, and as they say in the musical, "On a clear day you can see forever." 

Eungella Dam from the Lookout

We had forgotten just how extensive the dam is. On our return journey home we saw magnificent King Orchids growing wild on the cliffs, and a rare Cane fire was glowing in the distance. The cane farmers generally harvest the sugar cane green these days, but it is always a thrill to see a cane fire burning at sunset. It makes me think of Graeme Connor's haunting song, "Cane Fires Burning."

Back to food. We enjoyed a casual lunch of French baguette, wraps and salad, sliced roast lamb, pesto and hummus. Then Julia brought out her delicious chocolate chip slice.What a winner! As delicious as any chocolate caramel slice I have ever tasted, but less complicated, and fewer calories of course. This slice can be assembled in under 30 minutes, cooked for another 30 minutes, and is ready to eat shortly after. I had to bake it this morning, and Neil has given it the seal of approval. Julie is one of the best cooks I know, and always seems to have a culinary surprise up her sleeve. Thanks for sharing the recipe of this little gem Julia.


1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup biscuit crumbs (e.g. Nice biscuits)
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup slivered or flaked almonds
1 tin condensed milk (low sugar if preferred)

Lightly grease a slice tin, approx. 18cm x 28cm.

Spread melted butter over base of tin, then spread Nice crumbs, coconut, choc chips, and almonds in even layers.

Then pour over the condensed milk evenly. Bake for 30 minutes on 175 deg. C. Check the slice after 15 minutes as this slice will burn if the oven is too hot. Adjust temperature accordingly.

Allow to cool in the tin, slice into squares, and then store in the refrigerator in a plastic container for up to a week, if it lasts that long.

I find that I enjoy a recipe so much more if it is linked to a special experience. Do you sometimes think of something or someone special when you cook a dish with an experience attached to it?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vanilla Cup cakes for Speech Pathology Week


This last week was Speech Pathology Week and I volunteered to bake some cup cakes, to be given away at Cairns Hospital to celebrate the event, as we are up here on holiday. I didn't go overboard with decorating these as time was of the essence and it was about quantity and having enough to hand out to the public who walked through the front door of the hospital. However I love this easy recipe, which produces a very tasty and reliable result.

Speech Pathologists treat and rehabilitate patients who have suffered from strokes and accidents affecting their ability to swallow liquids and foods, and also specialise in language and communication skills. I don't think a lot of people realise just what they do so it was great to be involved to raise awareness.


125g (4 1/2oz) unsalted butter, softened
250g (1 cup) Castor sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
3 eggs
185g (1 1/2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
185 ml (3/4 cup) milk
Bought Decorations or fruit such as raspberries ( which can generally be purchased now from a

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C (350deg F/Gas 4). Line a 12 hole (1/2 cup) muffin tray with paper cases. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and fold into the mixture, alternating with the milk, until it has a soft dropping consistency. Spoon into the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool. Ice the cakes when cold and decorate.
Makes 12 Cup cakes.

Thanks to Bill Granger for this basic recipe which I used.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Sipping Duck coffee shed in Cairns

Great Coffee Art at the Sipping Duck in Stratford, Cairns, FNQ

When Neil and I are travelling, a priority of ours is to find a good cup of coffee, which generally means an establishment which does their own roasting, is prepared to offer a variety of roasted beans to try, and has perfected their own coffee art design. Even though we don't generally order food with our coffee it is also nice if we find a cafe with an impressive selection of cakes, biscuits, breads, etc. to try. The cafe culture in Cairns has not disappointed.

This morning, not only did we have a marvellous cup of coffee at the Sipping Duck in Stratford, but were also very impressed by the coffee art which adorned our coffees. Their coffee art is a flagship for the Sipping Duck, and if the barista has time, a very chirpy Sipping Duck greets you from the surface of your coffee. Very impressive. This is the best coffee art I have seen to date, and  coffee art has become a very competitive business.

The Sipping Duck is located in the Northern Cairns suburbs, at 25 Johnson St., Stratford, in a very unpretentious but appealing and eco friendly industrial shed, easily accessible from the highway leading out to the Northern Beaches.Or it can be detoured to when travelling to Freshwater to catch the Kuranda train.

The staff here work hard and fast, and yet are always happy to discuss the quality and source of their coffee beans to an interested customer, like my husband. Today Neil walked out with two bags of green coffee beans, which he intends to roast at home with his barista cap on, and at a much cheaper price than if we had purchased them online from our usual distributor. A very happy customer.

This morning we broke the rules and shared a slice of Jamaican ginger, pineapple, and fivespice bread, with our coffee, supplied by a local Cairns restaurant, Coco Mojo, a very clever move by the Sipping duck as it tasted amazing with large chunks of stem ginger throughout.

 I am also impressed by their generous community outreach. We attended the Freshwater Primary School Fete last Saturday, and the Sipping Duck Barista/owner, was busily making coffee all afternoon for eager customers. He supplied his time, equipment and the coffee beans free of charge as a donation to the event. 

Here's to a great cup of coffee.Well done to Cairns and the Sipping Duck.
ph.0413 025 243

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Homemade Sourdough bread with Seeds and Rolled Oats

Sourdough bread with Seeds and Rolled Oats

You can either make your own sourdough starter from scratch, find a baker that will give you some, or perhaps one of your friends already has some. People are generally very happy to share the bread making experience, as was my friend Felicity, who gave me the dough starter and a lesson in how to make it. To make this bread, you don't require a bread maker or a a dough hook in your mixer, just a passion to make your own bread, eat well, and it can easily all be done by hand.

You should already have 500g of Desem or Sourdough  in the fridge. You can take off the exact amount needed from your Mother dough or Desem for the recipe and use as such. Or you can take a small amount and give it 2 feeds to use for the recipe. I have done both and I don't think it makes a lot of difference as far as the quality of the final loaf of bread goes. It is more dependent on whether or not you have the time to wait for the dough to grow in between feeds, or if you want to make your bread straight away. However if you are time poor and need to make your bread straight away, you will need to feed your Desem in the fridge as well so that you don't lose it.

To make this bread, you will either need a large bread tin or tray to cook it in, and a good set of scales. All quantities need to be accurately weighed.

 Take 60g of Desem from the Mother dough in the frig, and double it with 2/3 flour and 1/3 water to double the amount. Add the combined flour and water gradually to the Desem until it is all combined. Let 60 g double to 120g. Take off 90g , feed it again, and let it rise to 180 g. Take off 20g. and use 160g for the following recipe.Allow 24 hours for all of this rising to happen.

Remember: When Desem in the fridge is down to 250g  double it with 1 part water and 2 parts plain flour. Put straight back in the fridge. Leave for 2 days and use as before.


350g Baker's Flour 76%
110g Other Flour 24%
12g salt 2.6%
160g Desem or Sourdough 34.7%
270g Water 58%

Make a porridge in a tray with boiling water from the following and allow to cool:

100g Rolled Oats 21%
60g Sunflower Seeds 13%
40g Linseeds 8%
200g Boiling Water 43%
30g Honey 6%
30g Oil 6%

Next step:
Sift the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.
Mix the 160g Desem and the 270g water with the porridge.

Add the porridge and Desem to the flour and combine well. Rest the dough for 10 minutes.
Turn onto an oiled or floured bench and knead gently for ten seconds. I use flour on my bench to knead the dough.
Knead again and place in a clean large oiled mixing bowl.

 Cover, place in a warm spot,  and allow to make a 50 % rise.(This generally takes a few hours)
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead again and knock back dough and place into the oiled bread tin you intend to cook the bread in or on a cooking tray if you intend to make a round loaf.
Allow to rise another 50%, or until the dough rises to almost fill the bread tin and then cook it. Sprinkle some flour on top for a nice finish.

Oven temperature:
220 deg. C. for 10 minutes
200 deg. C. for 20 minutes.
Remove bread from the tin and if it is still slightly soft around the crust, place it back in the hot oven without the tin to bake for a further 10 minutes to crisp up the outside.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Make a simple salad with White Cannellini Beans and a Vinaigrette dressing

This Cannellini bean recipe serves 4. I doubled the quantities as I was serving it as a side for 13 at dinner and there was plenty. If you are doubling the quantities, use a red and a green capsicum, as the two colours look attractive and give a nice contrast in flavours. The whole recipe can also be mixed  together early on the day of serving and kept in the frig, so that is one less thing to do close to the event. 


400g (1-16oz) can White Cannellini Beans (or any other white bean you may prefer)
1 red or green capsicum, or use half of each for colour
1/2 medium very fresh brown onion
6 tbsp good quality red wine vinegar (I used Jamie Oliver)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt to taste
1 clove garlic (optional)

(Preparation time 10 minutes)

  1. Rinse and drain the can of beans
  2. Chop the capsicum and onion very finely and place into a medium size mixing bowl. Add the beans and mix it all together.
  3. Mix together the red wine vinegar, the olive oil, and the salt and pour into the beans. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary, although the flavours will develop so you could do this closer to serving the salad.
  4. If you have some very fresh garlic and you love it, peel and mince 1 clove of garlic, and add it to the mixture and stir. 
This salad contrasts perfectly served with a hot Spanish chicken and chorizo casserole. However it can stand on it's own just served with a green salad. Click on this link for the recipe of the Spanish chicken casserole.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Curried Sweet Potato Soup in Winter

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

A very warming soup in Winter, with the intensity of the spices and chilli softened by the beautiful sweet flavours of the lime and the coconut milk. This will also stretch the budget in Winter with Sweet potatoes being very much in season.

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2 onions, chopped
4 Australian or locally grown garlic cloves (to support local industry)
4-5cm piece of ginger, peeled or grated
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped and deseeded, or to taste (It is quite spicy using two chillies)
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons curry powder
4-5cm piece fresh turmeric, peeled and grated if you have it (optional)
3 sweet potatoes (about 700g) peeled and cut into 2cm dice ( or substitute some pumpkin)
1 litre vegetable stock or homemade chicken stock (depends on whether you are a true vegetarian or not)
400ml can coconut milk
A small handful of coriander, roughly chopped  (I grow it because I love this stuff)
Juice of 1-2 limes ( or a good tablespoonful)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
A few tablespoons plain (full-fat) yoghurt (optional)
A small handful of coriander, roughly torn

Let's cook:

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and saute for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the spices, the garlic, ginger, chillies, garam masala, and curry powder, and stir for a minute to intensify the flavour.

Tip in the sweet potatoes and stir until they are well coated in the spices. Add some salt and pepper to taste and pour in the stock. Increase the heat and bring to simmering point. Cook gently until the sweet potatoes are very tender, usually about 15 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, cool slightly and then puree with a stick blender until very smooth, unless you like the lumps. Return soup to the pan, stir in the coconut milk and warm through on a low heat.

Remove from the heat and add the coriander and lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. 

Serve the soup topped with a good spoonful of yoghurt, scattered with some extra torn coriander, and some homemade sourdough bread. As a final garnish grind some black pepper over the top, delicious!

Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage for this recipe which I have adapted.
This recipe can be further adapted by substituting the sweet potato for 180g of red lentils, and adding chopped carrot, celery, and a couple of bay leaves to the onions. You might need more stock if using lentils, eg 1.3 litres, and the juice of 1/2 lemon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sticky Date Pudding for a large dinner party


This recipe is great for entertaining a large number of people for lunch or dinner and makes at least 16 serves. It is best to bake this in a large ceramic baking dish. When the temperatures plummet, as they have even in North Queensland, what could be better than a delicious, warming dessert, served with ice-cream of course and this amazing Caramel Sauce. 

This is Berenice's recipe, an ex-teaching colleague of Mr. DIY, and this is how it was served at the Second Semester  Retiree Teacher's Lunch that we attended. Just halve the ingredients for a smaller number of people. So simple, it's a winner.


340 gm Dates
3 tspns Bi-carbonate soda
600 ml Water
340 gm Castor Sugar
340 gm SR Flour
4 Eggs
125 gm Butter

Boil dates 5 mins in water. Remove from heat and add sugar, butter and bi-carb. Cool. Add eggs and fold in flour. Bake in Moderate oven for 1 hour.
(Makes a very large quantity – at least 16 serves.)

Caramel Sauce


125 gm Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Water
2 tblspns Golden or Maple Syrup
¼ cup Cream
1 ½ tblspns Corn Flour

Combine butter and sugar and stir over low heat until mixture turns to thick syrup. Bring to boil. Simmer 3 minutes. Combine water, syrup and cornflour and add to mixture. Stir until boiling. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream.

For another dessert perfect to serve at a party with the Sticky Date Pudding, the
Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake works a treat. For the recipe click on this link.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rosella (Wild Hibiscus) Harvest and making Rosella jam

The Rosella Harvest has finished for another year. It has been one of my slower weeks, where I have had a head cold and have been trying to really look after myself so that it doesn't develop into anything nastier. So homemade chicken soup, Inner Health Immune Booster tablets, the occasional whisky to soothe the throat (it really works), lots of veges, indulgent reading, Rosella jam on toast from last year's produce, watching Wimbeldon, and I am feeling as if I am on the road to recovery today. Thank goodness the Antarctic blast hasn't reached us up here yet. It might get slightly colder but it is magical weather here today.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Chilli Con Carne with Minced Beef


Chilli Con Carne is a favourite dish in Winter in the Tropics, as it seems too hot in Summer to really spend the time cooking it, or consider eating it, although aromatic curries are still popular all year round. There are lots of recipes which use slow cooked shredded shin beef or chuck steak as a base for the Chilli, however with the rising cost of beef, and if you are entertaining a crowd, or if time is at a premium, using minced beef is a very suitable substitute and doesn't compromise on flavour at all. However, if you are entertaining your boss, or entering a cooking competition, or cooking for a very special occasion, I would go for quality and texture and opt for shredded slow cooked beef.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

There are lots of decadent chocolate cake recipes out there now, however this one with the addition of liqueur, dark chocolate  and raspberries is in my mind winning the race at present. This is one of those cakes where it is preferable to make it on the day of eating, and if possible eating it only an hour or so after it comes out of the oven, especially if being served as a dessert. However, if you are serving it for morning or afternoon tea, it would be fine to make it the day before. It will still taste fantastic and receive rave reviews. My daughter was cooking this cake last week when I called her, to take into work for afternoon tea, and that is how I heard about this cake. It is such an easy cake to make. It can work unfruited as well, by replacing the raspberry liqueur with a tablespoon of dark rum and serving it with coffee ice-cream. Frozen raspberries can be used, but it's best not to thaw them, and toss them in Plain flour before adding to the cake. This prevents them from sinking to the bottom.

I cooked this during the week for my friend Kati, and her parents who are visiting from Germany, to compliment the Aussie BBQ. There is always enough of this cake left over to send some home with your guests as well which they love.

This recipe is taken from the wonderful Nigella Lawson's repertoire  of recipes and has been reincarnated many times by cake lovers.


185g self-raising flour
30g  good quality cocoa powder
250g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Creme de Framboise  or Creme de Dijon Bardinet
95g castor sugar
95g muscovado sugar
250g good dark chocolate
185ml black coffee and 185ml water, or instant coffee made up with 2 teaspoons instant coffee and 370ml water
2 eggs, beaten slightly
250g fresh raspberries or around 350g raspberries if frozen, plus more to serve if desired
(Neil made up some espresso coffee for me from his roasted Venezuelan beans and the flavour permeated the cake beautifully)

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C or Gas Mark 4. (A moderate oven) 

  1. Butter a 22-23cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
  2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together in a bowl, and set aside.
  3. Put the butter, Framboise, sugars, chocolate, coffee and water in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir over low heat until everything melts and is thick and glossily smooth.
  4. Stir this mixture into the sifted flour and cocoa. Beat well until the mixture is smooth and glossy again, then beat in the eggs. This will now be runny which is normal. Don't add more flour as the mixture firms up nicely whilst cooking thanks to the wonderful chocolate setting as the cake cooks.
  5. Pour the smooth mixture into the prepared springform cake tin until you have covered the base with about 2cm of the mixture and then cover with the raspberries.  
  6. Pour or spoon the rest of the mixture onto the top of the raspberries. I like to spoon the mixture over the raspberries so that they stay put and don't jump up through the mixture. However, you may have to push some of the raspberries back under the cake batter by hand.
  7. Put into the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Don't try and test by poking in a skewer as you don't want it to come out clean. The texture is like a delicate, but  dense mousse.
  8. When it is cooked, the top will be firm and slightly cracked. This is easily masked by some icing sugar sprinkled on top.
  9. When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and put on a rack. Leave it in the tin for about 15 minutes and turn out.
  10. Decorate with fine icing sugar, and serve with fresh or frozen raspberries and cream, or coffee icecream.
Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oven Roasted Ratatouille

This Ratatouille is a very versatile vegetarian dish, which enhances the traditional style, stove top ratatouille which I have usually cooked, by baking the vegetables, and roasting the tomatoes, introducing a delicious, roasted, and caramelised flavour to the dish. It can be served with bruschetta, rice, a lamb roast, or just with sourdough bread and salad. There are two options given for the tomato sauce, depending on what you prefer and what you have on hand.

This recipe is a variation of the River Cottage veg everyday recipe, presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Oven-roasted ratatouille

2 onions
2 red, orange or yellow capsicum, halved, cored and deseeded (green will also do if that is all that you have)
400g zucchinis (courgettes)
1 large eggplant (aubergine) about 350g, or a few smaller ones
5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
A small handful of oregano or thyme sprigs, leaves only chopped.

Preheat the oven to 190 deg. C. Cut the onions into thick slices, from root to tip. Cut the capsicum unto 2-3cm pieces. Halve the zucchini and chop them thickly if very large. Cut the eggplant into 2-3cm cubes.

Place the vegetables into a large roasting dish, add the olive oil, add plenty of salt and pepper and toss it all together.

Roast for 1-1 1/2 hours, giving it all a good stir a couple of times during the cooking process, until the vegetables are tender and starting to brown around the edges.

You now have two options. You can either make a tomato sauce on the stove top which is then mixed through the ratatouille veges at the end and baked for a further 10 minutes, or make a lovely variation with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, economically using your oven at the same time as the other vegetables. I opted for the the roasted cherry tomatoes because I had the tomatoes, and they impart a beautiful caramelised flavour to the dish, however it depends on what you have on hand and I will  provide the recipes for both.

Dry Roasted Ratatouille with Cherry Tomatoes

Arrange  500g halved vine-ripened  cherry tomatoes closely together in a single layer on a small roasting tray. Trickle with a little Olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes at the same time as the veg., on a lower oven shelf for at least an hour until reduced, wrinkled, and slightly caramelised and charred. They shouldn't need to be cooked as long as the other vegetable tray.

When the cooked roasted vegetables and the tomatoes have cooled a little, toss them very gently together in a bowl. Stir in the chopped oregano or thyme. Serve the dish at room temperature, and trickle a little extra olive oil over the top if desired.

This ratatouille can also be served on bruschetta, or with couscous or rice.

Stove-top Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, slivered
2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
A large sprig of thyme
A pinch of sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the garlic and let it sizzle gently for a minute without browning then add the tomatoes with their juice, the bay leaf and thyme. Cook at a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring often and crushing the tomatoes down with a fork. When the sauce is thick and pulpy, season with salt and pepper and the sugar. (Sugar is optional.)

Add the tomato sauce to the cooked vegetables, mix well, and return to the oven for 10 minutes until bubbling and fragrant.

Serve the ratatouille preferably warm, but never chilled.

Best wishes


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Search for the source of your food

I have just discovered this website after reading a very well written article in the Life section of the Weekend Australian today by Laura Dalrymple, about how important it is to know the source of our food, the importance of buying locally grown produce when possible, and not being "anaesthetised by choice and abundance" or by the packaging on foods we buy.

Local produce at the farmers markets in San Sebastian, Spain. When travelling overseas,
I am always impressed by the habit of shopping  daily at the local markets.

At home, we are growing as much of our own produce as we can in our own backyard, and some of the front yard as well, however it is realistic to expect that in suburbia we are still dependent on purchasing many items from the local markets, supermarkets, or IGAs.

Spanish artichokes

As retirees with more time on our hands, we are swapping or just giving away surplus produce excess to our needs. This not only reduces waste, but it also feels really good to share.

Cured meats for sale at the San Sebastian markets

I'll see how the Flavour Crusader website develops, but I am becoming increasingly passionate about this whole issue.

As Laura says in her article, "the decisions we make at the check-out are proving to be the most effective change agent in the retail sector. Never underestimate the power of one."

The flower markets-San Sebastian

Friday, May 29, 2015

Corned Beef Fritters, they're budget friendly and delicious

Corned Beef Fritters are one of the meals I grew up with, and even now, just the thought of them makes my mouth water. A beautifully cooked piece of corned silverside for dinner is as popular as it's ever been, and then after a couple of days, using the leftover slices to make fritters, is not only budget friendly but also delicious. Your family and children will love them.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ginger Syrup Cake

This Ginger cake embraces the sweetness of  golden syrup, and the heat and spice of fresh and ground ginger. It is always a winner with a cuppa or as a dessert, especially as the weather starts to cool down and has always been a favourite cake of ours.

We dug up some fresh ginger from our garden, picking just enough to make the aromatic Ginger syrup.

I offered to take this cake as dessert for our after tennis dinner party, which happened to be our lovely friend Chris's birthday as well. Chris loves ginger, and really enjoyed her birthday cake.

Chris and her  Ginger syrup birthday cake


120 g unsalted butter
250 ml golden syrup
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice
220 g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
250 ml milk
2 free-range eggs, beaten
Icing sugar, for dusting

Ginger Syrup

1/2 cup caster sugar
125 ml water
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Let's Cook

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
Grease and line a medium sized square cake tin. 
Melt butter and golden syrup over low heat; remove. Sift flour, ginger, mixed spice, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
Add milk and egg and mix until smooth. Gradually add butter mixture and stir.
Pour batter into tin; bake for 50-55 minutes or until risen and firm to touch.

Ginger syrup:

Combine syrup ingredients in small saucepan, boil, stir, reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove cake, pierce with a skewer; spoon over hot syrup. Cool, dust with icing sugar.

This recipe is taken from David Herbert's recipes, however I have doubled the ingredients to serve it as a dessert with thick fresh cream mixed with Greek yoghurt, and swirled with homemade strawberry jam, or ice cream

Just halve the ingredients if you wish to make a smaller cake in a standard loaf tin.

Happy cooking,

Best wishes


Monday, May 18, 2015

Honey Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

This is such a simple recipe, and although tomatoes are officially out of season at present, I just managed to buy some beautiful cherry tomatoes at the supermarket  at a reduced price because they had passed the use by date, however were still in excellent condition. This recipe is taken from the River Cottage Veg Everyday cookery book, and whilst I am not vegetarian, we are reducing our meat consumption to what it was, and a dish like this marries beautifully with risotto, grilled or roasted vegetables, or just to quote Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, "piled on toast with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt on top." Perfect. So simple and so delicious. The original recipe uses 1 tablespoon of honey, however I think this could even be reduced to 1/2 tablespoon if you prefer things a little less sweet like me. This depends on how sweet your tomatoes are as well.

500g cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon clear honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 deg. C/Gas Mark 5. Lightly oil a a medium roasting dish or pie dish. Halve the tomatoes and place them, cut side up, in the dish. Ensure they fit snugly with little or no space between them.

Crush the garlic with a pinch of salt, then beat it with the honey, olive oil and a good grinding of pepper. Because I had quite large organic garlic cloves from nearby Eungella, I mashed them up in my pestle and mortar with the salt and mixed the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.

Spoon the gooey, garlicky mixture over the cherry tomatoes.

Roast for about 30 minutes, until juicy and bubbling.