Monday, 28 November 2016

Mediterranean Chicken Marbella Recipe, a touch of Spain with a silver lining

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.

Chicken Marbella


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:
  1. 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.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. or 350 deg. F.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting the chicken pieces frequently with the pan juices, until cooked.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Buen provecho!

Best wishes

Pauline xx

Friday, 25 November 2016

It's a back to basics day, cooking from scratch with Pickled Beetroot and Homemade Pumpkin Soup

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.

Pickling Beetroot

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.

Best wishes


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Golden Syrup Dumplings, comfort food in a bowl

Syrup dumplings are a McNee family favourite, and I am generally asked to make this dish for dessert when I am cooking for the whole family. However last time when we were away and I wanted to make it, I found it difficult to find a recipe that I liked online. So here is my favourite Golden Syrup Dumpling recipe which was buried deep in one of my recipe folders. This is comfort food in a bowl.

If you are very well organised with plating up your main course, the dumplings can be placed in the saucepan to simmer and cook as the main course is being eaten. Dessert is then ready to be served following the main course. It's that easy.


1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 level tablespoons golden syrup
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
30g butter


1 cup self-raising flour
30g butter
1 egg
1-1 1/2 tablespoons milk

 Custard or ice-cream to serve

Serves 4

Let's cook:
  1. Make the syrup first so that it is prepared for cooking the dumplings. Place water, sugar, golden syrup, lemon juice and butter in a wide, shallow saucepan. Stir occasionally over low heat to dissolve sugar, and rest while you make the dumplings.
  2. To make the dumplings, sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter to form crumbs, then make a well in the centre of the mixture and add egg and milk. Mix gently so that ingredients are just combined. (Don't over mix)
  3. Bring the syrup to the boil. With floured hands, form dough into little balls and place, one at a time into the syrup. Alternatively, drop portions of dough from a spoon into the boiling syrup.
  4. Cover the saucepan immediately with a lid, and let the steam do it's work to create light, fluffy dumplings. Reduce heat and simmer until dumplings are cooked and well risen (about 6-10 minutes, depending on size). Don't overcook or they will be tough.
Serve immediately with warm vanilla custard or ice cream and enjoy.

Best wishes


Monday, 21 November 2016

Spice up your life with Spicy Tomato Relish

Tomatoes are such a staple and very plentiful and quite well priced up here at the moment and I couldn't imagine life without them, could you? I still had some tomatoes that I bought at Merinda near Bowen, on the way home from Cairns which really needed to be used. I have always loved my Mum's easy tomato relish recipe, but just recently I have been enjoying relishes with a a bit more zing and heat to them, especially when eating  cheesy vegetable muffins or vegetable fritters or glazed meats.

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

  1. 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. 
  2. Chop the onions finely, either by hand or in the food processor.
  3. 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
Best wishes and happy cooking,


An original recipe by Pauline at Happy Retirees Kitchen.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Simplicity Chocolate Cake, a vintage recipe for a Sunday afternoon

Chocolate cake is always such a special treat, and everyone needs a simple and fast chocolate cake recipe in their repertoire, don't you think? It has been very hot here this weekend, and after a siesta following lunch I woke up craving some chocolate cake, but realising there was nothing sweet  in the house to eat. Mr. HRK had also turned the coffee machine on so he was obviously thinking of a special afternoon tea as well.

 I've been meaning to bake this recipe of my Mum's for a long time. It was a very easy and economical cake to make which she often baked when I lived at home, but is probably a bit small as a round cake by modern day standards, however today I baked it in a loaf tin which was perfect for Mr. HRK and me. It makes  two nice sandwich cakes by just doubling the recipe. It took about 15 minutes to prepare and mix and then only 40 minutes to cook. Because we were in such a hurry to try it, I iced it when still warm which isn't what I usually do but it was delicious. I also added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips to the batter because I was feeling needy, and these worked a treat.


1 cup S.R. flour
1 small cup sugar ( a teacup size)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Put all the ingredients, except the chocolate chips into your mixing bowl together and beat until well combined and glossy.
  2. Carefully mix the chocolate chips into the batter by hand (This step can be eliminated)
  3. Spoon the cake mixture into a well greased  round cake tin or a loaf tin, depending on the occasion you are baking for.
  4. Cook for 40 minutes in a moderate oven, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Test it after 30 minutes though just in case.
This mixture can also be made into patty cakes. Just spoon a tablespoon of the mixture into 1 dozen patty cake tins. These small cakes were called patty cakes in Australia before they all became cup cakes.

Just iced while still warm
 Prepare a chocolate icing whilst the cake is baking. I just make a very simple icing using about 2 cups of  icing sugar sifted with 2 tablespoons of cocoa, some melted butter and some milk. Start with small quantities of melted butter and milk and just keep beating and adding to the icing sugar until you get the icing consistency you want. I prefer icing that spreads across the top of the cake quite thickly and doesn't run down the sides. The cake needs to be quite cool though for this to occur.

So to any dear friends who read this, do you have a simple family cake recipe that you resort to when you just need some cake to eat at home when you feel like indulging? Is Sunday the day that you often feel like indulging in a nice afternoon tea?

Best wishes

Pauline xx

An original recipe by Pauline +Happy Retirees Kitchen

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

How To Make Your Own Homemade Pasta the easy way

Who doesn't love homemade pasta. We discovered late in the day that we would be having ten of the tennis folk for dinner because Lynne, our hostess for that night,  was unwell and as we are home we thought, well why not. So Mr. HRK volunteered to make pasta, bless his heart, which I welcomed and this meant I only needed to make the sauce and a salad. And of course a cake for dessert. So our cousin Judy's pasta sauce (recipe here) started cooking, as I always have those ingredients on hand, and around 4pm Mr. HRK commenced mixing the pasta dough. It was a rainy day and I wondered if that would affect the consistency of the pasta, perhaps it would make it gluggy? Neil doesn't worry about these things, and proceeded undeterred. The end result? Perfecto. Dinner was earlier than usual as it was raining, not ideal for tennis, but perfect for Italian food,  so  everyone arrived around 7pm to be greeted by the pasta already hanging on it's racks. Homemade pasta is such a crowd pleaser and a novelty and yet so easy, and it is such an economical meal to cook for a crowd.

 As the Italians say, Mangiare e tutti i tuoi problemi andranno via, Eat and all your troubles will go away.

Besides being a really good pasta maker, Neil is also an inventor and quite a tradesman so he invented his own racks to perfectly hang the pasta on, which are under constant revision by the way.

After some wine and cheese, the pasta was placed gently in the boiling water in a large pot on the gas burner sitting outside near the BBQ, and after only a couple of minutes it was ready. It is so fast that everything needs to be organised to go, even before the the pasta starts cooking.

 The pasta is then quickly placed in the colander, a little bit of olive oil added, and taken to the table very quickly and served up to our guests, with extra fresh basil for garnish.

As I write this, the American election is in it's final throes,with voting happening today, and a media fest is in place in the States.Thank goodness it will all be over soon.

Make your own pasta from such simple ingredients:


400g fine Italian '00' flour (don't be tempted to use just ordinary plain flour)
4 eggs
(To serve 6 people, just double it for 10-12 people and freeze the dough that isn't required in glad wrap for using later.)
  1. Place flour in a mound on a clean surface. Make a well in the centre. Add eggs. Gently whisk eggs with a fork, using your other hand to secure the walls. Draw in the flour as you go.
  2. Bring the dough together. Knead for 5 minutes or until elastic and smooth. Sprinkle the dough with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.
  3. Divide the dough into 4 portions. Flatten 1 portion slightly. Set the pasta machine on the widest setting and flour the machine and dough well. Feed the dough through the machine.
  4. Repeat 6 more times, folding the dough into thirds and turning it 90 degrees until its smooth and the same width as the machine (at least 12cm).
  5. Halve cross ways. Continue to feed each dough sheet through the machine, separately, without folding, narrowing the machine settings 1 notch at a time, until you reach the second last setting. The pasta sheet should be about 1mm-thick. Repeat with the remaining 3 dough portions to make another 6 sheets.
  6. For the best result, the pasta needs to hang in a well ventilated area for at least an hour, preferably on racks, so that the strands dry separately. 
  7. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, with just a pinch of salt, and boil for around two minutes until cooked to your liking. It won't take long. Have everything else ready on the table so that the [pasta can be strained in the colander and quickly taken to the table.
So my friends, have you ever made your own pasta, and do you prefer homemade pasta to the store bought packaged pasta? What is your favourite sauce to have with pasta?

Thanks to for the above recipe which works beautifully.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Duck Breast and Red Cabbage Noodle Salad with Shiro Miso Dressing

 Duck Breast Salad. Add Black Sesame Seeds for decoration.

Go straight to recipe here:

We've been back from holidays in Cairns for a just over a week now and I am slowly  getting back into a much needed routine.We returned to a broken and thawed out freezer which wasn't pleasant, but the following day we went refrigerator and freezer shopping, and now I am relishing in filling it with precooked meals, frozen tomato sauces as it is tomato season, and other meat bargains as they appear. It is a slow process however the new freezer which is beautiful, efficient and tidy, will pay for itself in the long run. There has also been a lot of gardening  to do, and as it is warming up in North Queensland that is now an early morning or late afternoon activity.

It has taken a whole week but I now enjoying being back in the kitchen. When Summer starts, light, tasty and nutritious meals often with an Asian influence seem appropriate and this recipe is perfect. I have made the salad twice over the weekend for dinners and I just love the subtle Japanese flavours of the dressing. In fact all of my favourite taste sensations are in this salad, marrying well with the  crunch of the red cabbage and the Japanese inspired dressing. When combined with the Duck Breast,  this becomes a perfect dinner party dish.

Salad ingredients:

3 x 150g-200g fresh duck breasts, skin on (or 4 if you are expecting really hungry guests)
2 x 90g bundles of soba noodles
3 cups of finely shredded red cabbage
3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
1-2 medium red chillies, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds (Available from Asian supermarkets)
1/2 cup roasted cashews or or almonds for extra crunch (optional)
sea salt flakes

Shiro Miso Dressing (White Miso)

1/4 cup tamari (or use soy sauce instead)
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tsp shiro miso
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Cooking the duck:

Score the skin of each duck breast diagonally, and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. If you have time, pour boiling water over the skin and place, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight. According to Maggie Beer, this allows the pores to open and helps the fat under the skin to render beautifully during the cooking. However if you are short of time, just 10 minutes does help.

Preheat the oven to 200 deg.C. Heat a heavy based frying pan over a high heat until very hot. Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper and place skin-side down in the pan to sear. Leave until well browned, then turn over and sear the other side for 1 minute. Transfer to the oven and cook for another 4 minutes, then remove and leave to rest covered, skin side down, in a warm place for a least 5 minutes.Cut into 1 cm thick slices.

Meanwhile prepare the noodles according to packet directions and drain and rinse very thoroughly and allow to cool.

Make the miso dressing by whisking all the ingredients in a jug until smooth.

To assemble the salad, place the duck, noodles, cabbage, cucumber, onion, chilli, coriander, and dressing in a large bowl.Toss until well combined. Scatter with black sesame seeds and nuts just before serving.