Happy New Years to my friends and family. Hope you have a very rewarding , happy and successful 2017.
Saturday, 31 December 2016
Being on holiday between Christmas and New Year on the coast in Western Australia I thought we would have access to lots of fresh seafood. Well it hasn't quite panned out that way. So when we stumbled across the Lobster Trap Cafe in Lancelin, North of Guilderton, for lunch it was a chance to see what was on offer. A family owned business, a very friendly atmosphere, and good food with a Byron Bay presentation style ensured a memorable experience for the family.
Happy New Years to my friends and family. Hope you have a very rewarding , happy and successful 2017.
Happy New Years to my friends and family. Hope you have a very rewarding , happy and successful 2017.
Saturday, 17 December 2016
Peaceful Doves (Geopelia placida)
Two very sweet little Peaceful Doves have just hatched in the Aussie peg basket that they call home. My early stroll around our garden with a cup of tea in hand, a peak in the peg basket and there they were, two beautiful little just born baby Peaceful Doves. Yesterday Mum was all fluffed up so we thought the birth was imminent. The next couple of days will be critical to their survival. Mum, who we have named Margaret, Peggy for short, (do you get it?) had flown off probably to get breakfast organised for her two new babies so I could have a good look and take a photo without doing any harm. She will be feeding heavily now on small seeds and water so that she can produce the "crop milk" in her crop glands to feed her babies. Thankfully, I could see that they were breathing ok, and that their little eyes were open. The glorious thing about them being in the peg basket on the Hills Hoist washing line is that we can observe what is happening, and Margaret has become very used to us unless I forget and bounce up to the washing line to hang out washing very close to her, then she has taken fright and flown off but always returns very quickly. Dear friends that has only happened a couple of times. At the moment, in respect for the miracle that has occurred I am hanging out my washing on the lines in the garage, which I started doing because of the rain, however I will continue to do it now for a couple of days.
|This was Mum sitting on her eggs|
When we take an early walk around our neighbourhood it is interesting to see just how many families of birds, such as magpies, butcher birds and peewees there are with the young on the ground waiting to be fed by their parents. Are you noticing this in your suburb as well at this time of year. Having all of this activity in our garden, such as the birds, the European bees feeding on the basil, the native bees feeding on the Wandering Jew plant, and the bumble bees feeding on the eggplant flowers, means that our garden has become quite organic and self sustaining and all of the resulting healthy herbal produce supports my activities in the kitchen. It is so nice to have the time to observe all of this happening, thanks to the simple style of living that we are enjoying in retirement.
Friday, 16 December 2016
BAKED RICE PUDDINGIt's Saturday afternoon, there are rain showers around, so it seems the perfect opportunity to do some long, slow cooking and make this very economical and very satisfying dessert. There are so many variations of this baked rice dessert out there, however when I am cooking for my family this is the recipe that I always use otherwise it just wouldn't measure up. My Mum made it, her Grandmother made it, and now I make it. It is great comfort food, and puffs up beautifully when first cooked. However, be aware that the the delicious nutmeg infused skin will deflate when it is removed from the oven. This doesn't affect the taste at all. All you need is some time to cook it, and some very basic ingredients. Whilst it requires a slow oven, it can be cooked on the lowest oven rack if you are slow cooking a piece of lamb or pork at the same time. It can be served with stewed aromatic fruits if desired, however it is delicious just on it's own. I earn some serious brownie points when I take the time to cook this for Mr. HRK.
My tip is that if you aren't a real sweet tooth or you are cutting calories before Christmas, halve the amount of sugar and it is still delicious. However I really think the full cream milk needs to be used in this recipe.
3 tablespoons short-grain or Arborio rice
300 ml water
600 ml full cream milk
3 tablespoons sugar
nutmeg, freshly ground if possible but not essential
- Place the rice in a pie or casserole dish and add water.
- Cook slowly in the oven (150 deg. C) until rice absorbs the water. (Allow about 30 minutes)
- Add milk and sugar to the hot dish and mix well. Sprinkle well with nutmeg and add a few small pieces of chopped butter on top as well if you wish
- Bake in a very slow oven for about 1 hour. When a brown skin forms the rice mixture is creamy it is cooked.
- Serve cold with stewed fruit.
Tomatoes, luscious ripe Roma tomatoes, are still in abundance thank goodness in North Queensland, but soon it will be too hot, and the season will be finished. So much of my cooking at present is about preserving what is seasonal, so that I have it either in my freezer or my pantry when those particular items become too expensive. However, at times I weaken and use those supplies, like last night when we indulged in homemade pasta and whilst I had made a delicious bolognese sauce as well, I just had to try my new Roasted Tomato sauce. I think everyone enjoyed it.
It is so easy but lots of tomatoes are required, so I think it will be a trip to the markets again to buy some more.
Dear friends do you find that you preserve excess quantities of fruit and vegetables for the future but find yourself dipping into them for convenience. I think it just makes life easy at times and takes the pressure off if guests are arriving, After all isn't that what a lot of restaurants do?
This Tomato sauce recipe is a River Cottage classic, obviously made over there with a selection of British tomatoes and this can be the mainstay of a lot of delicious meat based and vegetable cooking.
|Trays and trays of tomatoes waiting to be roasted|
This recipe makes about 500 ml of sauce
1.5-2 kg ripe tomatoes, larger ones halved (A selection can be used but I used all very ripe Roma tomatoes)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
A couple of sprigs of marjoram if you have it but not essential
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. Lay the tomatoes, cut side up if halved, on a baking try. Scatter the garlic and herbs over the top, trickle over the olive oil, and season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Put the tray in the oven for about an hour, until the tomatoes are completely soft and pulpy, and starting to crinkle and caramelise on top. Yum!
Take the tomatoes out of the oven and set aside the baking tray on a cooling tray for about half an hour or so. Depending on the tomatoes, you may not need to rub them through a sieve with a wooden spoon, or use a traditional mouli. I found that my tomatoes just popped out of their skins making it easy to simply process the tomato pulp into a sauce.
Bolognese Meat Sauce recipe
Homemade pasta recipe
Sunday, 11 December 2016
Apple Tea CakeA wet weekend provided the perfect setting to bake a classic apple tea cake, something I've been meaning to make for quite a while. This is a cake that can be made very quickly, 6 minutes in fact, popped in the oven for 25 minutes and be ready to take over to a friend's house for morning tea, still warm out of the oven.
I was searching through my Mum's old recipe books looking for her tea cake recipe, such a treasure house of memories in those books, and to my delight I found this one. It was given to her by Chris, who is a good friend of mine, and who we used to visit for a cuppa sometimes when Mum would come up to stay. My Mum would also love looking at and discussing Chris's tropical orchids and enjoy giving them some extra tlc. I suppose this copy of the recipe could be about 15 years old now, and it cooked up beautifully. Tea cakes are meant to be eaten straight away whilst still warm, and have a reputation for not being as fresh the following day however this one did. I can also remember sitting with my great Aunts and eating tea cake and being offered butter to spread on it, which we did with no guilt at all. Those were the days. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.
Finding this recipe also made me think how we rarely write out recipes to pass onto friends now. We either send them the link to where we found it on the computer, for example on a blog, or scan the recipe out of the recipe book we own, or I suppose sometimes if we can remember it we tell them how it is made and they might write it out there and then. A couple of my friends still give me the original copy of a recipe from where they found it in a magazine or a newspaper if they no longer want it. I have a drawer full of those waiting to be tried, however I still have lots of hand written recipes in folders which I have been given over the years and which are favourites. I will always keep those, however inevitably some of them will appear on my blog for easy access. There are so many memories and so much history embedded in food and recipes, don't you think?
1/4 cup milk
1 cup S.R. Flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 lb or 125g butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
sliced apple, cinnamon, sugar as topping
Beat all ingredients together for 6 minutes.
Decorate with apple, cinnamon and sugar before placing in the oven.
Bake in a moderate oven for about 1/2 hour, until the top looks cooked. My cake needed about 40 minutes but my oven isn't as hot as some.
Thursday, 8 December 2016
A Peaceful Dove bringing life, hope and peace to our North Queensland Tropical garden at Christmas time
|A ready built home for the family, with interior decorating included. Recycling at it's best. She's been sitting on her eggs for a couple of weeks.|
|A flimsy nest of twigs and grasses in the peg basket. Since this photo, there are now two eggs.|
Happy Friday to my friends, and prepare to take a tour of my tropical garden.
The birds, the edibles, and the ornamentals bring our garden to life each day. We enjoy our morning cup of freshly brewed coffee on our patio before the heat of the day radiates to force us inside. However, salutations to our very maternal Peaceful Dove who continues to sit on her eggs in the peg basket on our Hills Hoist washing line, through the heat of the day and the cool of the night. I am so conscious at times of her lying out there exposed to the elements. and I have even at times in the heat of the day moved the washing line around so that she is in the shade of the neighbouring Golden Penda Tree. Neil has firmly secured the peg basket to the washing line to ensure it doesn't blow to the ground during windy weather which happened last year, when she or another Peaceful Dove was siting on her eggs. She is very used to us now, and doesn't fly off when we walk nearby or do the watering around her. She is now sitting on two eggs, when I took the earlier photo she was only sitting on one egg. It's a beautiful thing really to see her so bravely guarding her future offspring. We are looking forward to the eggs hatching, and hope it all goes well for her.
|Yellow gerberas saluting the sun|
|Beautiful Vanda Robert Smith x Asca Thai Ruby flowering again after a few years. 11 years old. A senior citizen in the orchid world perhaps.|
|Bromeliads flowering at last like a torch|
|Christmas flowering of lush and tropical Heliconia "Kawauchi", a relative of the banana|
|A miniature rainforest|
|Flowering Thumbergia loved by the birds|
|Italian and sweet basil, our future pesto ingredient|
|Caladiums in harmony with the Desert Roses|
|Crotons, Caladiums, Pentas in a tropical medley|
|Potted Oregano adjacent to the purple ground orchids and tarragon|
|Everflowering New Guinea bottlebrush tree, a haven for the nectar loving birds|
|Covered Turmeric and ginger patch emerging|
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
Caribbean Rum and Gingerbread Balls
Rum Balls have always been such a classic part of the Christmas treats in our home, but to my way of thinking the classics are the forms that can spawn a plethora of variations. Hence, these Gingerbread Balls are based on the idea of Rum balls but use Ginger cake as a base, with the addition of Caribbean Rum and the exotic Stem Ginger, an ideal marriage of flavours. There is no cooking involved, unless you want to make the ginger cake yourself. I have only been able to find good stem ginger at specialist Delicatessen stores, but I'm sure it is more readily available in the cities. More ginger can be added to this recipe for the gingerholics.
These will be Christmas gifts made with love for my friends, which I find more satisfying and meaningful than presenting them with something I have purchased. I hope they feel the same way. Since I have finished work, I guess I approach a lot of things differently, and now that I can I enjoy spending more of my time being creative in my kitchen, a valued luxury of retirement.
3/4 cup (60g) desiccated coconut
1/3 cup (80ml) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup finely chopped stem ginger, drained of syrup or use Naked uncrystallised ginger
2-3 tbs. Caribbean or Bundaberg (dark) rum (optional)
1/3 cup (65g) dark chocolate chips
Extra desiccated coconut for the coating
Makes about 40 balls.
- Place the cake crumbs, coconut, condensed milk, rum, and chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir until well combined.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll 1 tablespoonful of the mixture into a ball. Place on the lined tray and continue with the rest of the mixture.
- Place extra coconut on a plate. Roll the balls in the coconut to coat. Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.
Thursday, 1 December 2016
It's the season to be jolly and also the season to grow Basil and make Pesto before the serious and fun Christmas cooking starts. It is difficult in the tropical heat to grow much else, except perhaps other sun loving Mediterranean type herbs, chillies, small tomatoes and eggplant. Our vegetable garden has scaled down over summer and I am now mainly just picking herbs such as Italian Parsley, sage, thyme and of course basil. Turmeric and ginger are soldiering away ready for next year's harvest. However the basil needs almost daily attention to cut off the flower stalks before it all goes totally to seed in the heat. I am allowing a few bushes to go to seed as these will self seed for next years crop and also provide valuable nectar for the bees, although sadly the bees don't seem to be visiting as much this year. They must have had a better offer somewhere else.
So whilst the basil is looking nice and healthy I have made some Pesto, from a different recipe to my usual one, which has fragrant lemon zest and juice and also blanched almonds in addition to pine nuts. I have also tried a different technique for freezing it this year using Jamie Oliver's idea of wrapping it in slices in greaseproof paper, and freezing a whole sliced roll of it. The slices can then be easily be removed for cooking or for dips etc, and it eliminates the need to use lots of small plastic containers for storage in the freezer. You should have about 16 slices of pesto from this recipe.
Making pesto is just so easy, however it needs to be done quickly once the basil is processed in the food processor or it will discolour and turn black. Whilst the discolouration doesn't affect the flavour, it isn't a good look and will affect the quality of whatever it is added to. The pesto you buy has no flavour really and is an expense that can be avoided by growing your own basil, even on a sunny windowsill, or buy bunches of it cheaply from the markets.
Preparation requires a minimum of effort for this recipe and you will have pesto before you have finished your cup of morning coffee while you cook. Promise!
200 g Parmesan cheese
2 large bunches of basil, about 60 g each including tender stalks
2 cloves of garlic
100 g pine nuts
100 g blanched almonds
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 ml extra Virgin Olive Oil
Break the Parmesan into the food processor and add the fresh basil leaves stalks, lightly ripped apart. Just toss aside the tough stalks. Add the peeled and chopped garlic, the pine nuts and the almonds.
Finely grate the lemon zest, juice the lemon and add both to the mixture.
Pour in the olive oil. These ingredients will fill your food processor bowl, but it will all blitz down to a good consistency. It doesn't need to be too wet or oily though as it will be rolled up in grease proof paper. Extra olive oil can be added later if needed.
Pop into the freezer for 2 hours, then before it gets too hard, remove, unwrap, and slice into about 16 portions or whatever you prefer. Reshape, re-roll, and re-wrap, place the roll into a freezer proof bag, and place in the freezer.
It should last for at least 3 months, but you will probably use it before then. I like to have a stock of it in the freezer to use throughout Winter as the basil dies off in the cold.
Slices can then be removed as needed and used straight away. It will melt really quickly.
Monday, 28 November 2016
Chicken Marbella is a celebratory dish with a story, beginning with its creation in the kitchen of the Silver Palate food store, which opened on Manhattan's Upper West Side 35 years ago. The store was started by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, who cooked fresh each day, embracing a passion for simple good food. That is still the commitment of the Silver Palate Kitchens today. It is now on my Bucket List of foodie places to visit. This is an uncomplicated recipe, which has you in and out of the kitchen in no time, but delivering maximum flavour when eaten. It is a great recipe for people who either don't have much time to prepare and cook or who don't consider themselves to be great cooks. It is a simple matter of mixing all the ingredients in a bowl the night before to marinate, and then popping it in the oven the following day or evening 50 minutes before it is to be eaten. We all need uncomplicated recipes like this in our repertoire which still deliver magnificent flavours.
Go straight to recipe here:
This recipe has become famous and a firm favourite with many, standing the test of time because of the distinctive Mediterranean flavours and colours of the prunes, olives and capers and it's versatility to be cooked in the slow cooker, the oven, or eaten as a cold dish, or even as an appetiser.
Lynne from our Friday night tennis group has often cooked it for us all when we sometimes eat at their place after playing tennis, and it is always a winner. When she told me the name of the dish and I looked for the recipe as I always do, I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it before given it's great reputation and story. I hope you enjoy it as well. I cooked it at home last night, and whilst Neil generally enjoys most of my cooking, he loved this dish and went back for seconds so I sense it will be one of our family favourites.
16 chicken thighs or mixed chicken portions, to feed 8 people,
(Or buy a whole chicken and chop it up into portions, a cheaper option) Approx 1 1/4 kilos or 2 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves, or use fresh equivalent if you are growing it
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons of good quality red wine vinegar
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup roasted bell peppers drained, and coarsely chopped (this is an optional addition to the original classic recipe)
1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons capers, with a little bit of juice
1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped for garnish
Marinate the chicken:
- In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. (All the ingredients except the wine and the brown sugar.) Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight to marinate until you are ready to cook.
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. or 350 deg. F.
- Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking dish and spoon the remaining marinade over it evenly. Pour the white wine over the chicken pieces, and sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar.
- Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting the chicken pieces frequently with the pan juices, until cooked.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Pour over enough pan juices to serve, and sprinkle generously with parsley (cilantro). Any extra pan juices can be passed around in a sauce boat. Or for serving you can adopt the rustic approach which I quite like, and bring the baking dish straight from the oven to the table and serve from the dish.
- Serve with couscous or brown rice or a selection of salad and fresh vegetables.
This dish can also be served cold or take it on a picnic. Cool to room temperature in the cooking juices, before transferring to a serving platter.
Friday, 25 November 2016
|Homemade Pumpkin Soup for lunch today.|
When I thought about trekking to the local farmer's markets early this morning, I realised I still had ample fresh produce in my frig crisper to keep me busy cooking and for us to eat well this week. I love the markets and checking out all of the local produce, but it is false economy to buy more than we need, and it is so easy to do that once I am there. I am like a kid in a lolly shop when confronted by all of the wonderfully earthy, and ethnically diverse fresh fruit and vegetables. So I decided to stay home and cook up a storm instead.Three large, week old beetroot commanded pickling and the mature pumpkin was just begging to be made into a delicious soup. Before I started I also thought I would blend up some basil pesto today, as my Italian and sweet basil is doing very well. However it was an ambitious thought really as I am out of Parmesan cheese, and who wants to brave it at the supermarket on a Saturday when the Christmas rush is in full flight to buy cheese. It is bedlam out there so the pesto can wait. Perhaps tomorrow will be pesto and pasta day.
|Vinegar and spices pickling solution.|
|Boiling the beetroot|
|Preparing to sterilise bottles for pickling.|
|Hey presto, three jars of beautifully coloured pickled beetroot.|
|Also featuring my new kitchen cutting board which Neil made for me this week.|
So an early start at 5.30 am before the summer heat strikes, to go for a walk at Neil's suggestion, and then into the cooking. I now have a large bowl of pumpkin soup, some of which we will eat for lunch today and the rest will freeze well for those nights when I need a night off from the kitchen or we have surprise visitors. Batch cooking saves so much time later on. Three jars of pickled beetroot will last us for quite a while and will go into the pantry. I refuse to buy the canned stuff now, as much as I like to support Golden Circle, as it is full of preservatives which isn't a healthy option. It is so easy to pickle your own beetroot and it tastes great. I left all of the seeds in the bottles this time as I like the rustic look however that is a personal choice.
Go to Pickled Beetroot recipe here
Go to Pumpkin Soup recipe here
My work in the kitchen is done, so now it's time to relax, and put my feet up in front of the test cricket, which is gaining momentum. I've also started sewing again and hope to finish a shirt top I am making today so Happy Saturday everyone.
Have an enjoyable weekend if you are reading this, and try to keep smiling. What plans do you have for the weekend?
Also Happy Thanksgiving to anybody who is embracing the tradition this weekend.
Monday, 21 November 2016
So after an early trip to the farmer's markets, and using my usual tomato relish recipe as the basis, I added a couple of long red chillies, changed to malt vinegar, and added some more spices. Speaking of cooling down, it's hot here today, so the kitchen is officially closed for the afternoon, and a cold drink or two and a salad in front of the cricket is now the order of the day. Perhaps a rest and a read of my book later on as well, or even a movie.
1 kg fresh ripe tomatoes (the riper the better)
750 g onions
2 cups white sugar
2 dessertspoons good quality curry powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 cups malt or white vinegar
2 long red chillies, finely chopped (or use mild chilli powder instead to taste, start with 1/2 teaspoon)
salt to taste
cornflour mixed with water to thicken
- Prepare your tomatoes by blanching them in boiling water until the skins start to split slightly, and then place them carefully into an icy cold bowl or sink of water until you can pull the skin easily off the tomato. This whole process will be easier if you cut an X through the skin across the top of the tomato before blanching them. The skin should just slide off the tomato. Chop the tomatoes into quarters and place them in your cooking pot.
- Chop the onions finely, either by hand or in the food processor.
- Place all the ingredients, except the salt, in the pot and bring to the boil and then simmer until cooked and the mixture is reduced by a quarter. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning. I simmered mine for about an hour this morning. You will notice the mixture start to darken and thicken.
|Mixture cooking in the pot|
4.When cooked, add salt to taste.
5.Thicken the mixture with cornflour and water mixed to a thin paste, and simmer gently for a few more minutes. I used a couple of tablespoons of thickened cornflour and water to this mixture but it will depend on it's consistency.
|Bottles ready for sterilising in the oven on my Kangaroo tea towel|
An original recipe by Pauline at Happy Retirees Kitchen.