Sunday, December 24, 2017

Chocolate Rum Truffles or Christmas Trumffles

It's Christmas Eve and it's starting to feel like Christmas, especially when these delicious chocolate truffles are made and sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be enjoyed. My first batch only had 2 tablespoons of rum in them, however when they are refrigerated as we need to during a hot Queensland summer the flavour of the rum tends to reduce so I doubled the amount in the next batch and Mr. HRK and Shannon gave them the thumbs up, after trying a couple of them of course just to make sure. They are delicious with an afternoon  cup of  tea or coffee or an evening aperitif.

I hope you are enjoying the lead up to Christmas and that the commercial frenzy of the event hasn't affected you too much.

I have to admit that when I first starting making these  little balls I was calling them Rum Balls. However as often happens, the recipe evolved into more of a truffle like mixture so that is what I have called them. Shannon also reminded me that my classic Rum Balls used to always be made with Weetbix and had coconut in them. So do you prefer to make Rum Balls or Truffles at Christmas time or is there another traditional sweet family treat that you like to make?

Shannon has named these Trumffles as they are a cross between a Rum Ball and a Truffle, ha, ha.

Merry Christmas everyone.


250g sweet biscuits, such as Mcvities Digestives Milk Chocolate biscuits or Arrowroot biscuits
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut
4 tablespoons rum (I used Bundaberg Rum
Chocolate sprinkles and extra fresh desiccated coconut for coating in two separate batches


Drop your biscuits separately into the food processor through the chute whilst motor is running to make fine crumbs.
Place the biscuit crumbs into a mixing bowl. Stir in all of the other ingredients until well combined.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour until mixture is cold and firm.
Roll level tablespoons of the mixture into bowls. This may be easier if you dampen your hands first.
Lightly roll each truffle in either coconut or chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder.

As these may be served at a family gathering over Christmas, a special Kid's edition can be made minus the alcohol by replacing the rum with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and reduce the cocoa to 1/3 cup.

(This recipe is loosely based on one I saw on a Jamie Oliver Website, and then for some reason I couldn't find it again. )

I'd like to thank you for reading my blog and supporting me with your comments throughout the year. I'd also like to thank those bloggers who have inspired me throughout the year with their enjoyable and inspiring posts. We are all part of a very diverse, global and supportive blogging community, which I look forward to being part of in 2018.

This will be my last post for a while now, possible until mid-January.

Wishing all the best for a wonderful Christmas with family and a healthy, safe and rewarding 2018.

Bye for now

Pauline xx

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Everett's Lychee Farm at Mareeba, and Rusty's Market in Cairns, they've got it covered

We drove up the range to the Atherton Tableland from Cairns, which is inland and to the West, in search of the best Lychees and Mangoes, at the best price we could find. Lychees are at the height of the season right now, and Summer of 2017 has been a good season, as it has also been for Mangoes. Mareeba is the food bowl of the Tablelands, and as we approached the thriving township, we discovered Everett's lychee farm, marketed as F.N.Q Lychee. We drove through rows and rows of lychee trees covered in nets to protect them from the Flying Foxes and the birds and came to the distribution and sorting centre where there is an ordinary refrigerator storing  bags of Grade One lychees, and bags of seconds, all for sale to the public.

We bought a 5 kg bag of Grade One lychees which mostly had very small seeds, always a very strong selling point for lychees and they are delicious, we are still eating them. They were $8.00 a kilo, a good price for the best lychees available. There is a slight variation of flavour amongst them though as we discovered that in each bag there are a few different varieties: Fay Zee Sui, Taiso, Kiamana, and Soui Tung. All very juicy and delicious. We were told that large trucks arrive daily to transport hundreds of kilos south to the interstate Markets, and to Rusty's markets in Cairns. However, Rusty's only want the Seconds to sell to the public, which means it is then up to the consumer at the markets to sort through them and choose the best ones they can find. Everett's take great pride in the quality of their lychees as they are very serious commercial producers, and would  prefer for Rusty's to be buying their top quality lychees. However we have also bought lychees from the markets and they were fine. This saves Everetts from having to discard the lychees which aren't top quality.

F.N.Q Lychee is located at:
M & J Everett
209 Malone Rd
Mareeba, 4880
Phone: 07 4093 3120

Surely we don't always need to be buying the top quality in fresh produce if it saves us a few dollars.It doesn't have to look perfect to taste good. We found some 2nd grade lychees at Rusty's last weekend for $5 a kilo, a saving of $3.00 a kilo. By Sunday, the last day of the market, they may cost even less.

Whilst in the area, we saw this Strawberry Bowen Mango tree. The mangoes were a beautiful purple colour which we hadn't seen before. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any for sale.

Rusty's Market in the centre of Cairns is a must to visit from Friday to Sunday, because if it isn't at Rusty's it just isn't grown in the region. I'll let the photos mostly do the talking however it is always fascinating to explore the bountiful produce on sale in this huge barn. I took photos of some of the more rare fruits and vegetables as well so that I can do some homework and discover what I can actually do with them in my kitchen. We will be staying with our daughter in Cairns until after Christmas so there will be more trips to Rusty's as it is the only place to shop for the fresh stuff.

Backpackers make a meal of it as well, as there are lots of plates of samples available, so a cheap and healthy breakfast is available if you have the time to wander around and sample. We haven't done that  for breakfast though. There are lots of delicious cooked foods available by some very clever people and that could be another story in the future.

 Very delicious and ripe Bowen mangoes. Ready to eat.

These ones are mostly still green and should ripen in a week.

I bought a loaf of the Dark Rye Sour Dough bread and enjoyed it. This artisan baker makes hundreds of loaves each weekend for the markets as many customers now prefer the health benefits of unrefined flour and sourdough.

I was quite fascinated by the very large Bamboo shoots in the shape of Rhinoceros horns from Innisfail, just south of Cairns. I'm not sure what to do with them though, ha, ha. Any ideas?

Dragonfruit  are delicious and very colourful, when peeled, sliced and served with a cheese platter.

Who doesn't love large bunches of exotic flowers such as the Heliconias, Strelitzias and Gingers. they look so perfect.

I've never eaten Jackfruit, have you?

Daikon can be used to make fermented Kimchi.

Amongst all of this excitement in the Far North, we have also been cat sitting our daughter's cat, Nala. Nala is a pedigree Tonkinese, which is a cross between a Siamese and a Burmese breed of cat. Shannon found her as a Rescue cat, and she initially was extremely shy and timid with us, however she is becoming used to us now. When we first met her, she would spend most of her time under the bed. Whilst she still doesn't like to be cuddled much, she is happy to be stroked and patted particularly around feeding time, and is a proximity cat,  always just sitting a little bit away from us. She loves her food.

Here is a photo of Nala. She is allowed outside for a play in the mornings and the afternoons.

Isn't she beautiful?

This is the photo of the pool in our daughter's Unit complex that we swim in most days and that we look out onto when we have our breakfast and morning coffee. It is such a welcome respite from the tropical heat. Nala generally sits by the pool as we swim and keeps us company. She loves to be by water as long as she isn't in it.

Stay safe my friends and I hope all is going well in your world. Thanks for dropping by.

Bye for now


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Easy Pecan Pie with Maple Syrup to enjoy for the Holidays

Pecan Pie is a traditional American dessert and Thanksgiving favourite, and whilst there are stacks of recipes and variations out there, this one is so simple without compromising on taste or quality. I really encourage you to give it a try, as it is just so quick and easy and delicious. My only concession is to buy a frozen shortcrust pastry base, as I am baking this in Tropical Cairns, and the thought of making pastry in the Tropical Summer heat of 33 deg. is rather challenging. I  bought a frozen pastry base which can be used for both savoury and sweet tarts, as I like the contrast of a slightly savoury base with the sweet filling.

Traditionally Karo Syrup is used when making Pecan pie in the U.S., however the maple syrup works beautifully and some books say it was used before Karo Syrup, a form of corn syrup,  became the preferred choice. Texas claimed the Pecan Pie as it's official dessert in 2013, as the Pecan nut is  the official nut of Texas. Just a little bit of history there.

The biggest challenge with this is being very careful with the pastry so that it arrives home and into the freezer without being broken. I bought two just in case. Well Murphy's Law prevailed, I don't know how it happened, but one ended up in lots of small pieces and the other one stayed in tact, thank goodness. Not to worry though, because as my daughter Shannon said, the second broken one can still be baked and sprinkled over other desserts, ha, ha. Waste not, want not.

While the pie is baking, the pecans rise to the top, leaving a gooey layer of sugary custard below almost like a light caramel, which contrasts well with the crisp nutty surface. To be honest, I haven't baked a Pecan Pie for a long, long time, although I had eaten this particular one before when my friend Chris made it. She very generously gave me her recipe. I think it will become a family favourite. I was cooking this for Shannon and Dan, and of course Mr. HRK, and as Dan is originally Canadian, I thought that he would appreciate this traditional dessert, and he certainly did.

This only took me about 10 minutes to assemble before placing it in the oven, and as I was also making lasagna for the main course, it was great to make a very easy dessert.

Serves 4

Sweet short crust pie case (frozen)
3 eggs beaten
1/2 cup sugar
½ cup maple syrup (the real stuff, not imitation)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 175 deg. F

Mix eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla together.
Spread chopped pecans over your pie base and pour mixture over the top. (Sometimes the brand of pie case can be a little small for the mixture if the eggs are extra large and some spillage can occur so place pie on a tray.)

Bake in a moderate oven for 30-45 minutes. This depends on how hot your oven is. At home, I probably would have cooked this for 40 minutes, however Shannon's oven is quite hot and I took it out after 35 minutes as I didn't want to risk burning it.

Serve with a delicious ice cream.

Pecan Pie straight out of the oven

I was a bit worried about taking the pie out of the alfoil case as it was the first time I have baked a frozen tart shell, and I didn't want it to risk breaking it up. However next time I make it I will be brave and remove it from the alfoil, ha, ha.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Pomegranate Flavoured Baba Ganoush

The silly season of parties has started for some in the lead up to Christmas, which often means taking a plate or a dip to share. I have made this seriously delicious eggplant or aubergine dip a couple of times now, and the last batch kept in the refrigerator for nearly two weeks. It actually improved in flavour over that time. The pomegranate molasses and mint give this a distinctive Middle Eastern flavour. It is essential though to use freshly picked eggplant for the best result.  This recipe comes from the amazing Maggie Beer's Recipe for Life Book, a worthwhile purchase, and when I saw this list of ingredients including mint and pomegranate molasses I had to try it.

I have also frozen a couple of containers full, minus the pomegranate seeds as it makes quite a lot, and these will be great over Christmas, with the pomegranate seeds providing a festive garnish when needed.


Serves 6-8

2 large eggplants or smaller eggplants such as Japanese or White to the equivalent of 600-800g.
1/3 cup (90g) unhulled tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate for garnish


Preheat your oven to 250 deg. C. (fan forced)

Place the eggplants on a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes or until the skin has blackened and blistered and the flesh is soft.  Remove them from the oven and set aside on a tray to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin and scoop the flesh into a colander. Leave the flesh to drain for about 10-15 minutes.

In your food processor, process the tahini, garlic, molasses, cumin, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil until smooth. Add the eggplant and the chopped herbs and pulse until just combined. Check the seasoning, then transfer to a serving bowl.

To decorate, garnished with pomegranate seeds scattered over the surface of your baba ganoush. Serve with Lebanese bread, biscuits, or  barbecued broccoli as Maggie Beer suggests.

I also have an easier and more economical recipe for Baba Ganoush on my blog, but it is still a very tasty version. It is  essentially minus the pomegranate, molasses and mint and you can find that recipe  here. It just depends whether or not  you want to invest in a fresh pomegranate and some pomegranate molasses and show off over the Christmas season a little which can be fun and is always appreciated.

Best wishes


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The splendour of the Blood Lilly (Haemanthus) in Tropical Gardens


The African Blood Lilly with large red globe shaped blooms, resembling a very soft brush or a pincushion even, arrives unannounced, saying Look At Me and quietly takes centre stage. Splashes of brilliant red tinged with gold throughout our Tropical Garden signals to me that Christmas is on it's way. The bulbs which grow quite large if left alone, lie dormant beneath the ground for most of the year, some lush green leaves appear and then if the weather conditions are to their liking, the flower bursts into song in early Summer. We have had ideal weather this year for tropical bulbs, with rain showers, cloudy conditions and not too much heat just yet. However if you live in a frost prone region, these bulbs are not for you.

As you can see, I am in love with these little beauties, going by the number of photos I have taken. However I am being somewhat self indulgent, as it is a nice record for me as well of our colourful garden in November.

The nice thing is that other bulbs such as the gorgeous Caladiums, are also erupting now with large Triffid like leaves and challenging the Blood Lilly for centre stage. They flower a few times a year though and once again are quite forgotten when not in bloom. I am quietly amazed at how they have spread throughout our gardens, front and back, an indication I suppose of regular transplanting and rearranging and enjoyable activity in our garden. Both of these bulbs are available to be purchased online depending on where you live, however if you know an avid gardener and you live in the Tropics or sub-tropics, you probably know someone who grows them and would be happy to give you a couple of bulbs. That is what gardening is all about.

The Caladium leaves also last for a long time in a vase inside the house, bringing a lot of colour and accent wherever they are. A very large vase is needed though to emphasise just how long the stems are and the size of the leaves. They are show stoppers.

This photo below is a very old Vanda orchid plant which has just flowered, and I wish you could smell the fragrance from where you are. It was one of my Mum's and I don't remember it flowering before and I like to know their names. However this one has eluded me as Mum kept a diary of her orchids but I can't find a description that matches this one. So if anyone by chance reading this recognises this orchid, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Speaking of tropical, after a recent drive to Camilleri's roadside shop on the way to Sarina which sells produce from local growers, we arrived home with the most delicious lychees at only $10.00 a kilo, Bowen mangoes for $12.00 a bucket, delicious rough leaf pineapples (which are the best) for $2.50 each. The eggplant are from our garden. Sorry Woolworths, can you match that for quality and price?

This photo also includes a vase of Gardenia blooms from our tree. They are just starting to yellow slightly but fill the house with the most beautiful fragrance. Why spend money on cut flowers when there are so many flowers that are easy to grow and last very well inside. I love a vase of fresh flowers in the house, don't you?

Don't you just love this time of year? Mr. HRK makes an outstanding fruit salad and there are plenty of candidates waiting to be chopped up and put in the dessert bowl. Fresh is definitely best.

Have a great week everyone.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Beef, Sauerkraut and Mango Chutney Goulash

This is a slow cooker Goulash with a Tropical twist, hence the addition of my homemade Mango Chutney, and why not? There is no standard Goulash recipe.  I have called this recipe a Goulash because by one definition it is a thick meat stew, first made by Hungarian cattle herders and stockmen. The Hungarians call it gulyas, meaning herdsman. Although Goulash is traditionally attributed to the Hungarians, the versatile ingredients of the goulash have evolved over the years in various caountries. Paprika, now considered as one of the basic ingredients,  wasn't introduced to the Old World until the 16th Century. Sauerkraut and sour cream are often used instead of potatoes as a side dish, although potatoes can be good as a thickening agent instead of flour, and tomatoes only started to be added in the twentieth century. Garlic, caraway seed (which is in my homemade Sauerkraut), capsicum and wine are also considered  to  be optional ingredients in a goulash. Experiment with ingredients, and if you like it a bit hot and spicy, add some chilli paste. The variations are endless.

The wet and much cooler weather which we are experiencing at present brings out the best in me in the kitchen and I was in the mood for comfort food and some experimenting. I started with  my  basic Beef stew recipe, however I went a little bit more upmarket as I decided to brown off the meat and deglaze the pan with red wine, the correct and most flavoursome way of making a Beef Stew and went from there. A delicious Goulash evolved.


1.5-2 kg beef chuck or blade steak, cut into large cubes
2 chopped onions, I used one red and one brown (2 brown would be fine)
2 French shallots from my garden (optional)
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons Mango Chutney, for recipe click here
1 cup Sauerkraut (I used my basic Sauerkraut recipe which has Caraway seeds in it)
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 fresh ripe Roma tomatoes or 1x400g can  tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley for serving
2 chopped carrots
3 stalks of finely chopped celery

Let's cook:

Chop the beef into large cubes no smaller than 3 cm in size. Toss them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and coat well. Add 2 teaspoons of paprika to the flour if you wish, for a traditional Goulash.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a stainless steel or cast iron frying pan and fry in small batches until browned on both sides. Add more oil if necessary. Transfer the meat to a plate when browned.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and lightly saute the onions until softened. Add the onions to the bowl of your slow cooker.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping all of the bits from base as the wine simmers. Add the tomatoes, stock, oregano, mango chutney and bay leaves.

Transfer this mixture, and the sauerkraut to the slow cooker. Add the meat and stir everything to combine,  and cook on high for 3 hours depending on your slow cooker, or on slow for 6 hours. Cooking this dish in a casserole in the oven is also possible. Just press a piece of baking paper over the contents and cover with the lid. Cook in the oven undisturbed, for 1 1/2 hours. Taste it and add more seasoning if necessary. Check if the meat is tender and cook for a bit longer if necessary.

 For an authentic Hungarian, Polish and Eastern European experience, if we have friends over for dinner, I would serve with chopped parsley, and a bowl of yoghurt, some sliced pickled dill cucumbers, and some dill potatoes.  My lovely Polish friend Irena would enjoy this.

(However, this recipe is very versatile, and can also be served simply at home with elbow pasta, beans, salad, mashed potato or green vegetables. Or just with sourdough toast to mop up the juices, for an easy Sunday night dinner. This is how Mr. HRK loves to eat it, he reckons that by Sunday night we have eaten enough vegetables during the week. Use whatever you have on hand and enjoy eating.)

Another quick sauerkraut idea:

A great advantage of cooking from scratch in my kitchen is that my refrigerator holds a wide variety of chutneys, pickles, jams and sauerkraut, sometimes in half full bottles. Talking of experimenting, we have discovered that we enjoy the tropical taste sensation of grilled cheese on homemade sourdough toast with  hidden layers of lightly spread homemade mango chutney and homemade sauerkraut, and with mashed banana spread straight onto the toast as a base, it is a brunch to die for. Do you think that is a weird combination? Give it a try and I think you will enjoy it. Let me know.

Best wishes


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Traditional and Homemade Christmas Plum Pudding

Plum Pudding, yum. Christmas preparations have started in my house. I have a Christmas list, and making a traditional Christmas Plum Pudding is on it. This is my family's traditional Plum Pudding recipe, with the original but superceded ingredient measurements included, lbs and ounces, however Imperial measurements will still be familiar for my friends in the UK. For anybody reading this in Australia or the U.S. I have converted the ingredients to Metric, and rounded them off to the nearest amount.  As I was brought up with the old Imperial measuring system I converted most of these in my head to use my brain and tried to be consistent. The llbs and ozs are correct, however let me know if I have made any mistakes with the conversions.

Fruit soaking in brandy

The dried fruit is soaking in brandy for a few days or even a week. This pudding will be eaten on Christmas day for lunch, so I'll have no photos of the cooked  product until then. I'll have to be vigilant on the Big Day amongst all of the mayhem to ensure I actually remember to take a photo. I think the Plum pudding will be the only really traditional item on our Christmas menu this year, as we will be in Cairns and in the tropical heat, seafood, salads, liquid refreshments and all things tropical will be on everyone's minds.

This recipe makes a very large pudding so I often make two puddings, and either give one away as a gift to friends, or save the second one for the following year, and store it in the refrigerator.


1 1/2 lb sultanas/24 oz/680 g

2 oz mixed peel/65 g
1/2 lb raisins/8 oz/230 g
1/4 lb currants/4 oz/115 g
2 oz. Glace cherries/65 g
2 oz Almonds/65 g
1/2 lb/8 oz/230 g butter
3-6 tablspoons Brandy or Sherry (some extra for flambe if you wish)
1/2 lb./8 oz/230 g Brown sugar
4 eggs
1 grated carrot
6 oz flour/170 g
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 level teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
6 oz. soft breadcrumbs/170 g
N.B. Packets of Mixed dried fruit can be used to the equivalent weight of fruit listed above.


Prepare fruits, by slicing the cherries in half and chopping some of the raisins if you wish and place in a large mixing bowl. Add brandy or sherry to the fruit and stir so that all of the fruit is covered in brandy. Cover the bowl and allow to stand overnight or for a few days, depending on your time frame. I often add a little more brandy over a few days if the fruit seems to have soaked it all up. The more brandy the better I say, when it comes to the Christmas pudding.


 Cream shortening  (butter) and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beat well with each addition. Add this mixture to the marinated fruit in the large mixing bowl, add the grated carrot and mix well.

To the mixture add the sifted flour, spice, and bi-carbonate of soda which have been sifted together into a bowl, and the fresh breadcrumbs. Grease a large pudding steamer well and 3/4 fill with the mixture. Seal. If using a calico pudding cloth, flour the inside of the cloth well, fill with the mixture allowing space for expansion during cooking, and tie securely.

Place in a large pot of boiling water with the water level about half way up sides of basin. Cook for 4 hours in large pot on gentle simmer being careful not to let the water run dry.

 Cool the pudding and keep in a cupboard or the refrigerator depending on hot the weather is,  and then gently simmer again in the large pot for 2 hours on the day of reheating (Christmas Day) .

Last year I made this plum pudding in advance when we were in the Perth Hills in July as we were travelling back for Christmas. The dry heat over there allowed me to prepare the pudding in calico, hang it up in the laundry for the rest of the year, and by Christmas after it was cooked again it was absolutely delicious.

I serve this pudding with my Delicious Boiled Egg Custard.

I'm fermenting again.

As the weather was a lot cooler on the weekend I started another ferment. We are eating a lot of our sauerkraut in various ways, so I needed to make some more. A friend lent me his new and very large, modern looking Fermentation Crock, so I am giving that a try rather than using Mason jars. The cabbage is bubbling away, it is Day 3, so it looks like it is going well and smells like it should.

I  used my basic Sauerkraut recipe of green cabbage, grated carrot and a mixture of caraway and fennel seeds this time. and of course the essential Himalayan Rock Salt. As a rule of thumb,  I use 1 tablespoon of rock salt to 800 grams of cabbage. To fill this crock I would have needed at least one very large whole green cabbage. I only bought  half a cabbage from the Farmer's market this time so that is what I used.

Here is the recipe.

Best wishes


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eggplant Parmigiana

Parmigiana, yes please. Freshly picked, tender young Japanese Eggplants are the secret to the success of this recipe, particularly if it is being served up to family or guests who aren't devotees of the eggplant. I try to cook them on the same day they are picked from our garden, or if you don't grow them, they will probably be available at a Farmer's Market and should have been harvested that same morning. If they are slightly wrinkled or soft, I don't go near them for this type of dish.  I use the less than perfect ones which are still ok, for dips like Baba Ganoush, or Mediterranean baked vegetables. I salted my eggplants after slicing them to let any acrid juices drain out and then rinsed them free of salt, even though with fresh smaller eggplant it isn't essential. The eggplant flavour is subtle, and combines deliciously with the Italian Parmigiana flavours of tomato and mozzarella.

Eggplants self seed easily in our garden, one of the bonuses of an active and  healthy compost heap, although Mr. HRK isn't always thrilled to see the plants popping up throughout the garden. We only like to eat the Japanese variety and the eggshaped pure White ones, so they are the ones that we grow. However we only need a few plants, and the rest are pulled out. They grow into quite large bushes here in the tropics, producing an abundance of eggplants.

Who doesn't love Parmigiana or Parmy as it is colloquially called here, whether it is chicken, veal, or vegetable? It is still so often the item on a menu that people are drawn to, but it is so easy to make at home in your own kitchen. This recipe lives up to expectations and is perfect to serve with homemade pasta, bolognaise sauce and a salad for a large group of people. Or just serve it on it's own with a salad and bread, and leftovers heat up brilliantly the following day. A perfect and well balanced meal for a meat free Monday or on the weekend. For my friends reading this who live in the Northern Hemisphere experiencing cooler weather right now, this would be ideal to cook on a rainy afternoon.

Let's Cook:


1 kg of Japanese eggplant, freshly harvested the same day if possible
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
250g Mozzarella in one or two pieces that can be torn apart
40g finely grated Parmesan, or hard Goat's cheese (I used Parmesan this time)

Tomato Sauce ingredients:

4 x 400 g tins of tomatoes
2  finely chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Himalayan Rock salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
A little sugar for balance

I used a 25x17 cm ceramic baking dish for this recipe.

Let's cook:

Making the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large, wide pan, I used my Scanpan. Add the onions and garlic and saute gently for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the tins of tomatoes, the thyme and the bay leaf.
Bring the mixture to a high simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes until the tomato mixture has thickened nicely.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and about a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Your tomato sauce is ready for layering. How simple is that?

Preparing the Eggplants:

Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C.

Wash and trim the ends off the eggplants. Slice them lengthwise into 3-5mm thick slices. Place layers of them into a colander or on kitchen paper on a cutting board and sprinkle each layer with salt.The juices will drain out for about an hour. Even 30 minutes will be long enough for young eggplant.
Rinse the eggplant slices and dry them well with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.

Heat a large frying pay to a medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of the oil to start with. Fry one layer of eggplant  until golden on each side, about two minutes each side. You can transfer this layer straight to the base of your ovenproof baking dish. Finish cooking each layer of eggplant and set aside, adding more oil for each layer if necessary.

Cover the bottom layer of eggplant in the baking dish with a third of the tomato sauce. Dot a third of the mozzarella pieces over the sauce, then scatter a thin layer of grated cheese over that.

Repeat with another couple of layers, so that you end up with three layers in your dish.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

For serving, I sprinkled mine lightly with some Fennel fronds just because I have them growing, and it's also nice to eat with your eyes.

I assembled this dish the day before because I had a busy day coming up, kept it in the refrigerator overnight, and cooked it up the following day. If you have a glut of eggplant or aubergines, as is often the case with home grown vegetables, this dish can be prepared and assembled and frozen in batches and cooked at a later date for an easy dinner. This is a very economical way to prepare food.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Best wishes


Monday, November 13, 2017

Nigella's Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream

On Friday, I made a Chocolate cake with Coffee Buttercream and I really enjoyed making this cake. I haven't cooked a double layer cake with a buttercream icing for quite a while, and it's how cakes always used to be made, generally with icing.  This was simply a matter of adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, with no electric mixer involved, just a wooden spoon and a bowl. A cinch to make. We had our tennis friends over for Dinner, after tennis,  and as it was Lou's birthday, I wanted to make her a proper cake with icing, that could be nicely lit up by candles. The cake I chose is from Nigella Lawson's latest recipe book, "At My Table", and thanks Nigella because it is delicious and a delight to eat.

It's so nice to celebrate with cake, don't you think. As we get older, the saying of "a second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" becomes particularly relevant, unfortunately, so Mr. HRK and I try to limit ourselves to desserts and cakes for mainly celebratory events now. We are getting better at it. Twenty years ago that wasn't an issue for me. However it is amazing how often celebrations come around and of course as a starter I have cake every Tuesday at Mahjong, which is a longstanding tradition, and so life goes on. It's all about enjoying a celebration now and then, and balancing our diet and lifestyle around the celebrations.

Anyway let's cook:

Ingredients for the cake:

225g Plain Flour
275g Caster Sugar
75g sieved good quality Cocoa
2 teaspoons Instant Espresso Coffee Powder
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
175ml Full Cream Milk, at room temperature
175 ml Vegetable Oil, plus more for greasing the baking tins if you wish (I used butter for greasing mine)
2 large Eggs, at room temperature
250ml of Water, from a freshly boiled kettle

Ingredients for the Icing

350g icing sugar
175g soft Unsalted Butter
Instant Espresso Coffee Powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons, dissolved in 1 x 15ml tablespoons just-boiled water
(All of my tablespoon measurements are 20ml and that is what I probably used in this recipe with no problems)
This icing is a cinch to make in a food processor. Because it is warmer and more humid where I live than where this recipe was probable tested, I thought I might have problems with the icing melting all over the cake but it held it's consistency beautifully, although it is slightly cooler here at the moment.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C./160 deg. C. Fan forced
  2. Grease the sides and line the bases of two 20 cm cake tins. It is important not to use cake tins with loose bottoms as this mixture is very runny (a very liquid batter).
  3. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons of powdered instant espresso powder, baking powder and bicarb soda in a large bowl. Mix with a fork until thoroughly combined.
  4. Whisk the eggs, milk and oil together in a smaller bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and with a whisk or wooden spoon beat to mix until you have a smooth, but thick mixture like a fudge.
  5. Gently beat in the just boiled water, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as you do.
  6. A smooth dark, glossy and fairly runny batter will develop and when everything is well mixed, pour equally into the two tins. (If you have a large batter pouring jug that you can mix the ingredients in use that for easier pouring, however I just used a large bowl.)
  7. Place the cake tins into your oven for 25-35 minutes, but Nigella suggests that you start checking at 20. Mine took 35 minutes to cook, by which time, the cakes were coming away from the sides of the tin, and a few cracks were forming on the surface. Don't worry about that, it will all be covered up by delicious butter cream icing. When the cake tester came out clean I knew they were cooked.

8. Cool the cooked cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes, before unmoulding gently and peeling off the lining on the base. The cakes need to be handled gently so as not to break.

Let's make the icing now:

Generally when I make icing for a cake I just do it as I have always done and add the ingredients until it looks, feels and tastes right. However luscious Buttercream is a different story so I followed this recipe.

Pulse the icing sugar in your food processor a few times to remove any lumps but make sure the feeding funnel on the lid is covered so that icing dust doesn't fly everywhere:)
Add the softened butter and blitz to mix, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
With the motor running again, pour the coffee down the funnel of the processor and quickly blitz. Remove the blade carefully and scrape down the blade with a spatula.
Place one of the cakes on a serving plate or stand, flat-side up. It is probably better to place the highest cake as the base. Spread the lower layer generously with half the coffee butter cream, then make a sandwich with the second layer, with the top of the cake facing upwards.
Pile the rest of the butter cream on top, and use a wide icing knife or spatula to spread the icing, over the cake. Nigella uses the word swirlingly to describe this technique which I love.
Decorate as you wish. I used smashed pistachio nuts, or you could use chocolate covered coffee beans as she did. It is your choice.

If you eat some cake this week, I hope you really enjoy it. Have a great week. We are enjoying some rain which is wonderful, and means it is also cool.

Best wishes