Saturday, 31 December 2016

A delicious lunch at the Lobster Trap in Lancelin, W.A.

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.














Saturday, 17 December 2016

Peaceful Dove Babies just born

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



 We have had 4 or 5 families of birds nesting in our Paperbark tree this summer, however it was difficult to observe exactly what is happening. We watched with delight as the baby Peewees flew through our garage and rested on the roof racks of our car with Mum screeching at them to return home. However, having a family of birds in such close proximity to our house has been exciting.

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.



Go straight to the precious story about Mum sitting on her eggs here

Friday, 16 December 2016

Spoil yourself with Baked Rice Pudding




BAKED RICE PUDDING

It'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.

Ingredients:

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
  1. Place the rice in a pie or casserole dish and add water.
  2. Cook slowly in the oven (150 deg. C) until rice absorbs the water. (Allow about 30 minutes)
  3. 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
  4. Bake in a very slow oven for about 1 hour. When a brown skin forms  the rice mixture is creamy it is cooked.
  5. Serve cold with stewed fruit.




Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce




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

Method:

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


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Be kind to your gut with this Bolognese Meat Sauce with pasta



Bolognese Meat Sauce

Pasta for lunch anyone? We went out for lunch to a new Italian restaurant on the weekend, housed in a lovely old Church building in the Pioneer Valley at Pinnacle on the way to Eungella, and the homely tasting bolognese sauce with homemade spaghetti inspired me to make this recipe. I love the flavours that the pancetta, red wine and milk bring to the dish. I've never used milk in a bolognese sauce before, and I'd love to know if anyone else has, or is it a trade secret of the Italian chef?

Ok, I know,  this is another pasta sauce when there are so many out there and I have been cooking them for a long time. This classic Italian meat sauce is my new favourite, and  is a speciality of Bologna in Italy. It is minus the concentrated tomato paste which is a standard ingredient in so many recipes and which I think can play havoc with our gut if eaten in combination with lots of extra garlic and onion.  So if you feel a little bit off colour the day following a very rich tomato based pasta dish, blame it on the concentrated tomato paste and this could be the sauce for you. Don't blame the red wine, that couldn't be the cause of the discomfort, ha, ha. Of course it doesn't  look as red as a lot of the sauces I have made, which Neil observed and which worried me a bit however the proof is in the pudding or the taste as they say. It is delicious.  It is a great sauce also for lasagna, and delivers beautifully with any homemade pasta or  tagliatelle, fettucine or short pasta such as penne. The other traditional pasta sauce that I make is thicker and and has a heavier tomato base, good for the colder weather perhaps but not as friendly for the sensitive gut.

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

2 tbs. butter
60 ml/4 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp. pancetta or unsmoked bacon, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely sliced or chopped
1 celery stick, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
350 g/12 oz lean minced beef
150 ml/1/4 pint/ or 2/3 cup red wine
120 ml/4 fl. oz or 1/2 cup milk
400 g/14 oz can plum tomatoes chopped, with juice
1 bay leaf
1.5 ml/1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or use 1 tablespoon fresh basil)
salt and ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook gently for 3-4 minutes. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook until the onion is translucent. Stir in the carrot, celery and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
  2. Add the minced beef and crumble it into the vegetables with a fork. Stir until the meat loses its red colour. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the wine, raise the heat slightly and cook for 3-4 minutes until the liquid evaporates. Add the milk and cook until it evaporates.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and the herbs. Bring the sauce to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, before serving.
Bon appetit!




Sunday, 11 December 2016

Six minute Apple Tea Cake

Apple Tea Cake

A 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?

Ingredients:

1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup S.R. Flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 lb or 125g butter
1 tablespoon plain flour

Optional topping:

sliced apple, cinnamon, sugar as topping




Method:

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.

Warm wishes

Pauline



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

Home made gifts ready for Christmas


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.

Ingredients:

500g homemade ginger cake, crumbled, or take the shortcut and buy a Ginger Loaf (Coles has them).
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.

Method:

  1. Place the cake crumbs, coconut, condensed milk, rum, and chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir until well combined.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Summer Pesto from home grown Basil in the Tropics



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!

Ingredients:

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 lemon
10 ml extra virgin 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.



 Roll the pesto up in greaseproof paper to make a log, then scrunch the ends like a cracker. I needed two sheets of paper so that the paper remained quite dry. In cooler climates this probably isn't necessary.



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.