Sunday, January 29, 2017

Slightly devilish Aussie beef mince burgers perfect for weekend dining

Aussie Beef Mince Burgers

Aussie burgers that you can assemble yourself have become a popular way of eating Down Under and are perfect when entertaining at home, particularly on the Australia Day weekend. However, to be a true Aussie burger it must contain tinned or pickled beetroot which really takes it to new heights. Beef rissoles are easy to make, tasty and can be prepared in advance. This recipe has stood the test of time. 

Go straight to the recipe here:

The basics remain  the same, and chefs of today have taken it to a restaurant level by increasing the amount and combinations of fresh herbs they use, replaced onions for eschallots, and ensuring that the condiments served with the burgers tantalise the taste buds. For example, I have discovered the Slightly Devilish Spicy BBQ Caramelised Onion relish, just like Lee, from the Beerenberg Family Farm in Hahndorf, South Australia. I make most of my own relishes and chutneys, however chopping up all of those onions to make a relish doesn't excite me and this relish is so delicious. Definitely a must to serve with your Aussie burger along with a good Spicy Tomato relish, or even incorporate it into the beef mixture before cooking.

However the beef rissole needs to be tasty, and I would suggest  after you combine the mince with the other ingredients with your clean hands, you fry up about a dessertspoon full in a pan, taste it and see then if it needs more seasoning or herbs. Once the mince is formed into rissoles, you are past the point of being able to add to the ingredients, unless you start over.

Lamb can also be used but is more expensive. This is a fun alternative to a more formal style of entertaining and so tasty.

We enjoyed the leftovers the next day with vegetables, or rather I did. My Man of the House had another burger. This recipe is enough to feed 8-10 people, however if you are only feeding 2-4,  it is very time and cost efficient to still form the mince into rissoles, and freeze what you don't eat in a plastic container with layers separated by baking parchment. You can them take them out of the freezer and cook them as needed. And they will taste even better the next time.

Rissole ingredients:

Serves 8-10 people

1 kilo of premium grade beef mince
2 onions
4 slices brown bread (a few days old)
4 tbsp. mixed fresh herbs, including parsley (2 tbsp.), sage 2 tbsp.), and 4 teaspoons chopped tarragon if you have it (it is a strong herb with great flavour) or use 1 tbsp. dried mixed herbs instead
4 tsps. Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic, squashed and finely chopped (optional)
2 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons grated carrot (optional) - great though if you are trying to encourage your children toe at more vegetables
2 tablespoons oil
1/4-1/2 cup flour

  • Place onion, herbs, and bread in a food processor and process until finely chopped
  • Add to the mince with the pepper, salt, sauces, beaten egg, carrot, and mustard
  • Mix this all up in a large bowl with your clean hands until well combined 
  • Form into even sized balls and flatten (or) use an egg ring to shape and flatten them uniformly
  • Leave to rest on a plate in the refrigerator, covered in alfoil or cling wrap for at least an hour so that they firm up
  • Remove from the refrigerator and dust with plain  flour
  • Cook for about 8 minutes turning over halfway
  • Drain on absorbent paper
  • Heat oil in a fypan or on the BBQ and fry rissoles until they are cooked. They can be kept warm and covered  in the oven for a couple of hours before eating if this suits your agenda
Burger accompaniments:

Grated carrot
Sliced cucumber
Baby rocket leaves
Sliced tomatoes
Pickled beetroot slices or canned beetroot slices (Absolutely essential for an Aussie burger)
Cheese slices
Caramelised onion
Flat Bread rolls for easy eating

Slice and Butter the bread rolls on the inside and place down on the grill or BBQ and brown.
Caramelised onion and tomato relish can then be spread onto the bread. The burger is then assembled by your guests according to their individual taste.

Be sure to give your guests napkins.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and find it useful.

Thanks for dropping by  to read my blog.

Warmest wishes and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Pauline xx

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It's Australia Day, a public holiday and a time to relax and celebrate being Australian

Australia Day is the anniversary of the arrival and landing of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, at Sydney Cove in N.S.W  on 26th January, 1788. It's surprising how some people still aren't sure of what we are actually celebrating and each year it is a little controversial as to whether we should actually be celebrating this event or not. Despite the politics, I think it should be a time to relax, and just celebrate living in such a wonderful and diverse country.

I went for an early walk around my garden this morning with a cuppa and it reminded me how closely linked my garden is to my kitchen and my cooking and how some of the produce is only days away from being harvested and included into some delicious dish for us to eat. It is also a very multicultural collection of plants, some things that my Mum would never of thought of growing in her garden in the 50's or the 60's. That is exciting to me, how far we have come with what we grow and cook now. These photos are just a selection of what we have growing.

Our new ramp now finished
Mr. DIY has now finished our new ramp at the back of the house. He has done such a great job. Perhaps it needs just one more coat of varnish.

I am having an easy day at home today. Pickling some beetroot because it needs to be done, watching some cricket and some tennis, and enjoying just living in the Lucky Country. We will be eating BBQ Lamb as after all Australia rode on the sheep's back.

Tarragon, ground orchids, and oregano next to the bird bath

My miniature rainforest
Happy Australia Day everyone! I hope you can all enjoy a relaxing day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Salad feeds the masses a la Nigella Lawson

Sweet and Sour Red Coleslaw or Sweet and Sour Slaw

This Sweet and Sour Red Coleslaw is what I took along to a lunch yesterday. When I saw it in Nigella Lawson's "Simply Nigella" cookbook, as a Sweet and Sour slaw I liked the look of it. However, this salad shouldn't be attempted by anyone who is time poor. There is a lot of meditative chopping and slicing involved here as the raw ingredients fill a very large bowl or saucepan, probably the largest you have. I used my punch bowl which worked quite well and as there were around 30 people there, although I actually didn't count how many, a large salad was needed. 

The dressing in the recipe also looked nicely tropical with a zing to it. However, I'm not sure whether or not living in the Tropical North has increased my need for more intense flavours, but I found the dressing a little bit bland. So as a rule of thumb when making the simplest vinaigrette, or other salad dressing, keep adding ingredients until your little finger gives you the right flavour. Yes I dip my little finger into the dressing and taste it, and in this case kept adding more lime juice, salt, and maple syrup until I felt I had the right flavour for a sweet and sour coleslaw.

It was back to school in Queensland yesterday and thankfully the Christmas and holiday busyness of the shopping centres and the roads seems to have settled down so quickly already, and we don't even live in a large city by metropolitan standards. It is now so nice and relaxing again to go shopping. Back to school also meant that Neil's ex-teaching colleagues, the ones that are now retired that is, had to pretend that they were wagging school and celebrate the fact that they don't have to go back to work, and of course that means a celebratory lunch at someone's house. However, the numbers keep growing, so next time it looks as if we might eat out somewhere instead of trying to fit on someone's verandah.

The ingredients below are from the original recipe, but I used the juice of two limes, 4 teaspoons of maple syrup, 2 red chillies and then it came together nicely.  This also makes a large amount of dressing, so just use enough to suit your salad or it will become drenched. It definitely improves in flavour though if it is left to rest for a couple of hours.

Despite my comments, it is such such a delicious and refreshing salad, and so colourful, don't you agree?

It would work beautifully for Australia Day with some Lamb steaks or Ribs. Check out "Not Quite Nigella's" Lamb Rib recipe with pomegranate molasses. It looks really good.


1 red cabbage (approx. 800g), halved
4 fat or 6 skinny spring onions, trimmed
2 red peppers, membranes and seeds removed
1 yellow pepper, membranes and seeds removed
1 orange pepper, membranes and seeds removed
1 fresh red chili, de-seeded
Large bunch (approx. 100g fresh coriander)
250ml. pineapple juice, from a carton
2 limes, preferably unwaxed
1 ½ x 15ml tablespoon sea salt flakes, or to taste
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup

2 tea
  • Shred the cabbage thinly and put into the largest bowl you own. I used my punch bowl. It may be easier to use a huge saucepan as you need to toss all the ingredients together later.
  • Slice the spring onions into batons and then cut each baton into thin slices length ways, so that you have shreds. Add to the cabbage.
  • Cut the peppers into very thin slices. Add to the cabbage and spring onions.
  • Finely chop the red chili, and the coriander – stalks and leaves. Add the chili and all but a tablespoon of the chopped coriander to the cabbage bowl.
  • In a bowl or measuring jug, mix together the pineapple juice, the zest and juice of 1 lime and the juice of half of the second. Sprinkle in the salt, add the sesame oil and maple syrup, and whisk together before pouring over the prepared vegetables. Toss to mix, then leave to stand for at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours before serving. Sprinkle the reserved tablespoonful of chopped coriander over the finished salad.

Leftovers of this salad will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3 days, although the vegetables will soften.

Best wishes,

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Tropical Fruit Salad medley with Home Made Yoghurt for Sunday breakfast

Fresh Tropical Fruit Salad. Serve it with yoghurt for breakfast, or with ice-cream for dessert. 


The ready availability of Tropical Fruit Salad ingredients on hand is one of the great reasons and benefits for living in the Tropics. The beautiful medley of fruits pictured here comprises watermelon, red paw paw, rockmelon, passionfruit, lychee, apple, Bowen mango (yum), peach, orange and banana.  Potential items missing I suppose are kiwi fruit, pineapple and star fruit and probably a few others  available further North in Cairns, but I think we did pretty well. (Fancy forgetting the pineapple though :) The flavour that rose up above the others out of the bowl was that of the lychee. Such a sweet, sublime yet subtle Eastern flavour, what a shame they have such a short season. The lychees I bought yesterday from the Farmers market, were only $10 a kilo and grown quite locally so that is a bonus. Unfortunately the Bowen mango season for locals appears to have finished. Thankfully I still have some frozen.

However I wasn't trying to be healthy for the sake of it, I just happened to have all of the fruits in the house at the same time, and having made some yoghut yesterday it seemed the perfect idea for breakfast. My  husband who I sometimes call my Fruit Bat, needed no convincing and he helped me chop up the fruit, which is something he excels at being the chief designer and dissector  of our traditional Christmas fruit salad each year.

I was inspired yesterday to make some fresh yoghurt. I purchase the Yoghurt Culture from
Green Living Australia and keep it in the freezer as they recommend and it will last me forever as you only use such a small amount of the culture. It's easy and cost effective and you get creamy mild natural yoghurt with a thick hearty consistency, at a fraction of the cost you would pay in the supermarket. I use 1 Litre of Full Cream Long Life milk plus a 1/3 cup  of powdered milk which makes a thicker yoghurt. The milk needs to be warmed to 40 deg. using the thermometer, and then I use the EsiYo thermos system to develop the yoghurt.  It takes about 12 hours. I receive no commission from Green Living Australia for promoting their products I just admire what they do.  I attended a cheese making class of theirs a few years ago and loved it. I have since purchased my large cheese making pots from their very well equipped online shop. If I lived closer to Brisbane I would attend more of the self sufficiency classes that they offer. They are passionate about what they do.

I hope you have all enjoyed a contented and relaxing weekend and that the following week brings some nice surprises.

Thank you for calling in to visit my blog and please leave a comment at the bottom of this screen in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

Warmest wishes

Pauline xx

Friday, January 20, 2017

An early morning walk sets the tone for the day and keeps us healthy

My beautiful Vanda orchid in flower
This is the ramp to the left that is currently under reconstruction. A big job for some,
but my Mr. DIY makes it look easy.
Some mornings when I get out of bed my day's itinerary isn't determined, however by 8 o'clock I usually have a list of things in my mind that I will  try to accomplish. If I don't so be it. An early morning walk around 5.30am-6 am, before the heat of the day rocks in, certainly stimulates the thought processes and as I walk along admiring all of the gardens along the way I find that my mind becomes clarified, priorities emerge and a pattern for the day is set in place. This is so different to when I was working when my day was often dictated before I even arrived at work. I have always been and I still am at times a high achiever, however now that I am retired it is wonderful  not to feel pressured to achieve every day.

As my amazing and calming husband so succinctly says to me, "You know you can't save the world every day with your achievements. So true, however if we all try a little each day, hopefully the world will be a better place."

Have a calm, enriching and enjoyable weekend to whoever might stop by to read my blog.

Warmest wishes

(c) 2014 Copyright by Hope Pauline McNee

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bake delicious Muffins with in season Nectarines

Nectarine Muffins served Upside Down

Muffins are such a delicious way to enjoy  the bountiful supply of seasonal stonefruits which are available right now. Nectarines must be the perfect fruit for upside down cakes as the colours transform beautifully into a decorative topping. Be as creative as you wish with how your nectarine slices are arranged.  I just wanted to get these little gems made in a hurry and into the oven, it was a busy day, so I didn't spend that much time on slicing the nectarines for photographic appeal.  The next time I bake them I will be more particular with presentation. They still tasted delicious. Thanks to our friend Paul for this recipe which he told me originally came from Germany. Paul  often calls in for a weekly cup of tea and a chat, and when he has arrived with these muffins I have been so appreciative. So of course I had to make them.

It's been a busy week in retireeland. We are planning a holiday, the Australian Open tennis matches with the young Aussies playing have been terrific to watch, and the Man of the House has been rebuilding the ramp at the back of our house. Conscious of the hot conditions, I have been the water girl as well, very appropriate I think as we are now in the Age of Aquarius, my star sign, and symbolised by the Water Bearer. I'm a little bit interested in star signs, and where people fit into the scheme of things in that regard. To my way of thinking some of my friends, including the Man of the House, are very typical in a lovely way of their Star Sign's personality traits. And when you can remember your friend's star signs, it can also act as a trigger to remembering their birthdays, which is very important.  How about you my friends, do you know your Friend's star signs, and do you sometimes think that they display characteristics typical of their star sign? Anyway, time to carry some more cold water out to my man who is doing a great job on the new ramp, and loves  a project.


3 or 4 nectarines cut into slices
2 eggs
2 cups S.R. flour
3/4 cup of plain yoghurt
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1/4 cup of sunflower type oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Brown sugar

Makes 12.

Let's cook:

Prepare the 2x6 hole muffin trays.

Place a dob of butter (1 tsp.) into each muffin hole, and place into the oven to melt when you turn it on to preheat. Remove the trays from the oven and add one teaspoon of brown sugar to each muffin hole on top of the melted butter.

Place the nectarine segments upside down in the muffin holes (pretty side up and flesh on the bottom.) Combine wet ingredients in a medium bowl i.e. beaten eggs, yoghurt, oil, and vanilla essence.
  • Sift S.R. flour with mixed spice, and combine with sugar, in a mixing bowl.
  • Gently mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients to form a batter. 
  • Spoon a tablespoon of the batter into each muffin hole over the fruit. Top up each muffin batter if there is some left in the bowl.
Bake for 15 minutes at 200 deg. C.

Enjoy with some fresh yoghurt and a nice cuppa.

Warmest wishes


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Salmon Fishcakes (Rissoles) for a nutritious and easy midweek meal

Salmon Rissoles or Fish Cakes

Salmon rissoles or Fishcakes are a great idea for a satisfying, nutritious and tasty midweek meal and the kids love them as well as the adults. I remember this being one of my favourite meals when I was growing up at home in Rockhampton, many moons ago. It is a timeless classic, very simple to make and kind to the household budget. If you keep a can of salmon or tuna and a few potatoes and onions in your pantry, this dish can be very easily created at the end of a working day or during the day if you work from home, and then just cooked up 15 minutes before you want to eat. I am often quite varied with ingredients that I add depending on what I have on hand.

It is a good idea to make a double quantity, as you can then freeze half of them uncooked for next time, or you will find that leftovers are great heated up the next day for lunch boxes or eaten cold, or be prepared that they will all just disappear in one sitting by your hungry family. Make these an hour before you want to cook them if possible. They will firm up in the fridge and be much easier to cook and turn over.

Serves 4


1 large can of quality pink or red salmon or tuna in springwater
1 medium onion, finely chopped ( or a small bunch of fresh chopped chives or finely chopped shallots)
3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs for the mixture
1 large free-range egg
25g fresh or frozen peas (optional)
1 chilli, finely diced (optional)
1/2 capsicum finely chopped
Coriander and Parsley (or just parsley), finely chopped (approx. 2 tablespoons)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Panko or homemade breadcrumbs for coating or just plain flour  for coating so they don't stick to the pan

Let's cook:

Put your peeled and chopped potatoes onto boil in a half-filled large saucepan and add a pinch of salt. Bring the pot to the boil, and then simmer gently for around 10 minutes or until cooked through. If using peas as well, place them in the boiling water for the last 2 minutes. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Drain all the liquid from the can of salmon in a colander over the sink. Remove the skin and place salmon in a bowl and using a fork flake it into small pieces. Leave the bones in, these are very good for you, and are full of calcium.They're soft and you can easily mash them to incorporate into the flesh.
Chop the other ingredients.
Mash the cooked potato and allow it to cool.

While the potato is cooling add all the other ingredients to the fish, then the cooled mashed potato, mix well and form into patties about the size of the palm of your hand. Coat with dry breadcrumbs, if desired, or just coat them in flour and leave them in the fridge on a plate covered in Cling Wrap for about an hour to firm up.  After removing them from the fridge, you may need to give them another light dusting of breadcrumbs or flour before cooking.

Fry in hot oil such as Rice Bran Oil until both sides are golden brown, which takes about 15 minutes.

Serve with Sweet Chilli Sauce or Chilli Jam if you are in a hurry,  and a fresh green salad or vegetables. Sometimes I make a Minted Yoghurt dressing to serve alongside them.

Minted yoghurt dressing:

100 g reduced-fat natural Greek style yoghurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste

Mix together and serve alongside the salad and fishcakes.

MY TIP: This recipe is just as delicious made with tinned tuna. Tinned salmon used to be very expensive, pink salmon not as expensive, so tinned tuna was generally used by my Mum and they also tasted just as delicious.

I hope you get a chance to make these easy rissoles, I don't think you will be disappointed.


Warm wishes,


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Date and Walnut Loaf Cake for an easy Afternoon Tea

Enjoy this Loaf Cake still warm out of the oven with a cuppa, or it will keep fresh for a few days in your cake tin, if it lasts that long. It has always been called a Loaf, mainly I think because it is traditionally baked in a loaf size tin. However, I have added cocoa powder to this recipe for more depth of colour and warmth of flavour, I have bypassed the step of cooking the dates, wet ingredients and bi-carb soda in a saucepan on the stove, it is too hot after all to be slaving over a hot stove more than is needed and it takes longer, and I think this all warrants a renaming of this classic masterpiece to a Loaf Cake. If biscuits can now be cookies, this can now be a cake.

However, leave out the cocoa powder, add a few more walnuts and you will capture the more earthy and nutty flavour of the walnuts and dates. I like recipes with options, don't you?

Golden syrup, walnuts and dates are staples in my pantry cupboard, and as such this Loaf Cake can be baked very quickly when required.

Enjoy your afternoon tea and happy Sunday dear friends.

Preheat your oven to a moderate temperature 180 deg. C. Bake for 30 minutes.


1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 cups S.R. Flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
1 egg
60 g softened butter (or 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 dessertspoon Cocoa for a darker cake (optional)


  • Put chopped dates, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt, golden syrup, butter, and walnuts in a mixing bowl.
  • Add boiling water and mix well. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Then add beaten egg, followed by the sifted flour, mixed spice and cocoa.
  • Cook in a moderate oven in a greased and lined loaf or ring tin for 30 minutes.
Thanks for dropping by,

Warmest wishes,


An original recipe by Pauline @ Happy Retirees Kitchen

Friday, January 13, 2017

Zucchini and Ricotta Gnocchi for a healthy weekend treat

Zucchini and Ricotta Gnocchi with Lemon Sauce

When I saw this recipe and photo in a recent Mindfood magazine, my mouth watered and I just had to cook it. I've never made gnocchi before, and rarely order it in restaurants in preference for meat based dishes, however with zucchinis being in season, it is the perfect dish on a hot summers night or for lunch on  Sunday. The recipe is based on ricotta cheese, not potato so these little dumpling treats are slightly richer in flavour, and you don't have to cook the potato.

This dish is also ideal to make on the weekend when you have a little bit more time at your disposal and a willing helper or two around to assist with the whisking of the sauce over the hotplate, or the actual cooking of the gnocchi, however it is entirely possible to bring it all together solo.  If you can find some zucchini flowers to serve with it, especially if you are lucky enough to be growing zucchinis at home, then voila you have a delicious and healthy meal suitable to serve up for your friends.


4 cups grated zucchini
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup loosely packed basil, sliced
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups (390g) ricotta
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup grated Parmesan for decoration
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 cup (125) plain flour
Zucchini flowers to garnish, if you have them

Lemon Sauce

4 egg yolks
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice, strained
1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
1 generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp thick cream or creme fraiche

Let's cook:

The Gnocchi
  1. Mix grated zucchini and salt, let this drain in a colander for 20 minutes.
  2. Place grated zucchini in a tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. There may be a lot of liquid.
  3. Mix together in a bowl the zucchini, basil, lemon zest, nutmeg, ricotta, egg yolks, cheese and pepper. 
  4. Mix in enough flour to form a dough. You may need more than the cup of flour in hot and humid conditions.
  5. Using a well floured bench, divide the dough, and roll into 2cm thick strings. Slice each string into 2 cm pieces and use well floured hands to roll each piece into small balls. 

Place on a tray in the refrigerator and allow to chill, for at lest 10-20 minutes before cooking.After initially chilling them, they can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before cooking, this allows you to prepare them in advance before cooking, as they really need to be eaten as soon as they are cooked.

Let's make the Lemon Sauce:
This can be made in advance in the morning, refrigerated and reheated gently in the microwave  before serving. 
  1. To make the Lemon Sauce place the egg yolks in a glass bowl. Add sugar, lemon juice and zest and beat with an electric hand beater or a whisk until light and creamy.
  2. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and continue to whisk for 5 minutes until well aerated and thick. 
  3. Gradually add the stock and continue to whisk or beat over a low heat until the mixture thickens, about 12-15 minutes. Neil took over and helped me with this as it took about 20 minutes using a metal whisk. The sauce should be the consistency of thick cream and does thicken more as it rests and cools. 
  4. When cool, season with the salt and the cayenne pepper, and to make a richer sauce fold in the cream or creme fraiche. Taste the sauce and if you think the lemon flavour is a bit strong for your taste add a little more cream. Set aside.
The Lemon Sauce should ideally be cooked and finished before you start cooking the gnocchi. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water until it floats. Using a slotted spoon or a  mesh strainer,  remove the gnocchi and drain in a colander over a plate.

Place the hot gnocchi in a large bowl and pour over some of the sauce. Toss to cover the gnocchi with the warm sauce. 

Serve immediately, and if you have some zucchini flowers, use as a garnish along with some grated Parmesan and extra lemon sauce.

These gnocchi could also be served with a tomato based sauce.

Bon appetit dear readers, have a wonderful and relaxing weekend in a cool spot, and enjoy some delicious food.

Warm wishes, Pauline

Click here for tomato based sauce recipe.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Back home again and wet weather cooking

Chicken stock and homemade soup from scratch

It's really nice to be settling back into normal living again at home after a wonderful family Christmas beside the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean on the Western Australian coast and the thriving Moore River. We've returned to a lot of very welcome rain, which has however resulted in our New Guinea bottle brush tree toppling over again, and the Thumbergia vine on it's trellis to collapse. So our second day home was spent in the garden resurrecting the trees and cleaning up the yard. We also had computer problems but Mr. HRK seems to have solved those so now I can reconnect with  my blog and my lovely friends.

Stand up paddle boarding on the Moore River, Guilderton, W.A.
Western Australian Christmas tree, a burst of colour in the dry bush
Wet cool weather in the tropics has lured me back into the kitchen so in between working in the yard and dodging the rain, I made some healthy chicken stock from scratch. I need to know I have plenty on hand in the freezer. I'll freeze it in 500 ml containers, as it is the basis of so many great dishes, sauces and stews. Now that I have the time to make it, I begrudge spending good money on buying stock that has too much salt and preservatives added. It will keep frozen for several months, or clear stock will keep for five days in the refrigerator or longer if reboiled.  During the hot summer months, I don't need a large pot simmering on the stove adding to the heat of the house, so now is the time to do it when it is cooler.

Impressive sand dunes along the length  the Moore River
Long slow cooking of the chicken bones produces the essential gelatin in the stock which has so many health benefits. I like to believe that chicken soup, homemade that is, assists in healing the nerves and our gut, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes us and gives us strength. My Mother did it, her Grandmother did it, and Sally Fallon, a respected nutritionist and author of Nourishing Traditions still bases a lot of her cooking on homemade broths and stocks.

I use the following recipe when making my chicken stock, and because it is now quite difficult to buy chickens which produce a good gelatin in the stock I add a few more chicken feet, necks, giblets and wings, basically chicken bones,  as these are all so easily obtainable from the supermarket. The result is a rich chicken stock which sets like gelatin. It needs to rest, covered in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours so that any fat sets on the surface. I scrape the fat from the top, freeze the stock in  500 ml containers, and some in ice cube trays for adding to sauces etc. I generally also then use one portion of the stock straight away to make chicken barley soup, barley being my very favourite grain at the moment, particularly in summer. Although lentils and pulses are really beneficial for a change.The soup can also then be frozen in portions for those nights after a hectic day when a nourishing quick meal with a slice of toast is all that is required.

I hope that young career people, arriving home from a busy day's work, or stay at home Mum's who are busy caring for their family and home, or retirees like ourselves, can all at times just relax and enjoy a nourishing and sustaining bowl of soup in the cool of the evening.

  • 1 whole free-range chicken plus a couple of extra feet and necks, or 1 1/2 kilos of bony chicken pieces including necks, wings, frames, feet (perhaps 4)
  • gizzards from one chicken (definitely optional)
  • 3.8 litres or 4 quarts  (1 gallon) of cold water
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped with skins still on
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery sticks with leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  1. Cut the whole chicken into several pieces. Place the chicken pieces and extra bony parts in a large stainless steel preserving saucepan with the water, vinegar and all the vegetables except the parsley. Let it all stand in the pot for about 30 minutes.
  2. Bring to the boil, and remove the scum that rises to the top.
  3. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you simmer the stock, the richer and more flavoursome it will be.
  4. After about 2 hours though, remove any chicken pieces with a lot of flesh on them, such as breasts and legs and remove the flesh, as it will now be cooked. This can be placed in a plastic container in the refrigerator for using later on sandwiches, in curries, salads, enchiladas or just chopped up in your soup. Or freeze it for later. If it is left in the stock to simmer for too long it will become too mushy to use. Return the remaining bones etc to the pot.
  5. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add the chopped parsley. This will add additional minerals to the broth and lots of flavour. I rarely leave mine to cook overnight if I have a good quality chicken and I am using some other bony parts. 
  6. After it has cooled, very carefully remove the whole chicken pieces with a slotted spoon, and remove any remaining chicken meat from the carcass.
  7.  Strain the stock into a large bowl or two, and reserve for at least a day in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals.
  8. Skim off the fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.
After the fat is removed and discarded, some of the stock can be used straight away to make a chicken barley soup, or as basis for any kind of soup you desire.

Cook an easy chicken soup:

I just cook up some chopped onion (1), diced carrot (2)  and chopped celery (2 stalks) in a little butter and olive oil until onion is translucent and vegetables are softened. Other vegetables such as zucchini can be added.  Then I add 500 ml of the stock with some additional fresh chopped herbs such as parsley and thyme, about 1/4 cup of washed barley, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. The barley will take about 45 minutes to soften and then your soup is basically done. Add some salt and pepper to taste,  a splash of fish sauce (my secret ingredient), add some finely chopped cooked chicken, and serve with some more chopped parsley or grated Parmesan. Easy peasy and delicious and so good for you. 

Oh and I generally serve it with a slice of nice hot buttered multigrain or sourdough toast as well.

I'm still enjoying the rain and cooler weather!

Warmest wishes

Pauline xx