Friday, February 24, 2017

Mint, Ginger and Walnut Cauliflower "Rice"

Cauliflower when cooked as a vegetable on its own can taste rather bland, however, this version of my cauliflower rice, with the addition of the mint, ginger and walnuts was a very enjoyable side dish to accompany a simple chicken curry made in my new pressure cooker pot. It could also stand proudly on its own served cold with a salad. We didn't miss not eating rice with the curry at all. I have tried cooking and eating cauliflower rice a few times when I am concentrating on reducing carbohydrates following a holiday or a delicious dinner party and each time I have felt underwhelmed by the flavour whilst also analysing that it is a healthy option.

So forgive me my friends for adding yet another cauliflower rice recipe to the blog continuum when there are so many versions already out there, but I need this for future reference when we may be travelling and I am cooking away from home. No doubt though when I cook it next time a couple of extra ingredients will explore their way into this very versatile and healthy vegetable option, to replace what not might be available at the time. Variety is the spice of life.

It is hard to believe it is Friday already, but it has been a busy and rewarding week. Mr. HRK and I have tackled some gardening projects together necessitating some pleasurable decision making "meetings" over coffee on our patio. I have fitted in a little knitting whilst still trying to improve my skills, and thankfully I can see some progress there, and there have been all of the other enjoyable things that we do to keep our home a happy place. We have also watched a couple of really good movies which is relaxing but also thought provoking.

My project today is to try and finish a small fleecy cap I am making for little Hugo, our adorable little 7 month old Grandson. He and his parents are travelling to Denmark and France in March, for work and to meet his French maternal family for the first time, and I want to ensure that he has all of the warm clothes he needs for the trip. I am sure his doting Mum is also thinking about his wardrobe as she dresses him beautifully and sends us lots of photos of him in his little outfits however I help wherever I can.

I would love to hear from anyone who may be reading my blog if you have a favourite cauliflower rice recipe to share, or if you are thinking of cooking it for the first time.

If you have space in your garden to grow them, having ready access to mint, chillis, fresh ginger, chives and green onions means you have a ready supply of many essential ingredients to make your cooking interesting. Chives, green onions, chillis and mint can also be grown very successfully in pots on a sunny balcony. However, in summer I grow my mint in the bush house.

Happy cooking and gardening!

Mint, Ginger and Walnut Cauliflower "Rice"


1 cauliflower
2 tablespoons roughly chopped walnuts (or substitute with other nuts)
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced (optional depending on who you are cooking for)
2 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
5 green onions ( amount depends on the size of your cauliflower)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (preferably garlic if you have them)
Salt for seasoning
1 tablespoon coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil

Let's Cook:
  1. Process cauliflower florets finely in your food processor
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and add the chilli, finely chopped ginger, and finely chopped garlic and the whites of the green onions.  Cook until all of these are softened and  their fragrance becomes obvious to you.
  3. Add the cauliflower and the desiccated coconut. Cook on a low heat stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes until the cauliflower starts to turn golden and tenderise.
  4. When you are happy with the look of your cauliflower, add the mint, walnuts, green onion and chives.
  5. Serve in a colourful bowl and garnish with a flourish of extra green onions and mint and a dash of ground pepper.
Enjoy a relaxing and rewarding weekend everyone, and I hope you can put your feet up and do something you really enjoy.

Warm wishes, Pauline

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Chinese Braised Oxtail in your Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker

If you enjoy Chinese or Asian style cuisine you will love this dish. Oxtail is a cut of meat which appeared quite regularly as a stew at the dinner table when I was growing up, however it is absolutely transformed here with this remarkable combination of flavours. It is finger lickin' good. I often need to follow a recipe when using Asian ingredients, as it can be a fine line between getting it right or messing it up completely and the result being quite ordinary. I am much more confident with creating an original recipe for Italian, French or even Middle Eastern food than any kind of Asian cuisine. Perhaps that is also why so many people still use complete pastes and sauces from a bottle if they feel like an Asian meal. However there is no need as this easy combination gives a perfect result.

It was out with the old and in with the new on the weekend, and thankfully that didn't include me I write whilst laughing, as it was my birthday. Not a significant birthday, however as we get older I think they all become quite significant. Now I am just very thankful that I am still alive to enjoy each new birthday, as there is still so much to do.  So for my birthday gift, Mr. HRK brought home a brand new All-in-One Slow Cooker and Pressure Cooker Electronic Pot. Consequently my red 80's vintage Slow Cooker and also vintage Pressure Cooker retired to a better life at the recycling depot. They both have been just chugging along for quite a while now.  I found it a little difficult to part with these items that have moved with us from kitchen to kitchen for a large part of our married lives,  but we have a good rule that when something new such as an appliance or piece of furniture enters the house, something must also  leave the house. What is gone is gone. It works most times. This time one new item replaced two.

So we were both very excited about our new cooking machine. This is the first dish we have cooked in it, besides the apple cake, which came out of the accompanying Phillips  recipe book and has just been refined a little by us.We pressure cooked the meat and braise as it was a very hot day and the modern Pressure Cooker is the most efficient and coolest way of cooking this type of meal.  However slow cooking would work just as well. This is the kind of dish where you eat what you can with your knife and fork and then you just have to pick the bones up in your fingers and eat every last little morsel that you can find. It's a keeper.

Chinese Braised Oxtail

1 kg beef oxtail, trimmed
1/2 cup (125ml) Japanese or Korean soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, bruised
12cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thickly
4 green onions, chopped coarsely
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
3 x 5cm strips orange rind
1/2 cup water
2 green or spring onions, shredded finely for garnish

Let's cook:
  1. Cut oxtail into 4 cm pieces or have your butcher do this for you.
  2. Combine soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chopped green onion, star anise, cinnamon sticks, orange rind and the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Transfer this cooking base of sauces and spices to either your pressure cooker pot or your slow cooker pot. 
  4. Add the Oxtail pieces to the sauce.
  5. Seal the lid on your pressure cooker or your slow cooker and proceed to cook according to the directions for your appliance.
  6. We cooked this in our new Pressure cooker which took 25 minutes and in our tropical heat this is the best way to cook at present. 
  7. However using your slow cooker would also produce a delicious result and if I am slow cooking now I take the appliance outside and plug it in on our patio and leave it for 8 hours without heating up the kitchen. However, in the European or American winter, this would cook beautifully and cosily in the kitchen. Bring on Winter in North Queensland. 
  8. Remove the lid. Transfer oxtail pieces to a serving plate, and drizzle with about 1/3 cup of the braising liquid. 
  9. Sprinkle with shredded spring onion and serve with Asian greens and rice to soak up the sauce and flavours.
Absolutely delicious

Thanks for visiting my page.

Warm wishes,


Monday, February 20, 2017

Orange Cake for a birthday Afternoon tea

 Whole Orange Cake

I love a flavoursome orange cake in Summer and when I saw this recipe I decided to make it for myself on my birthday. Such a treat. It is so easy, as there is no zesting, juicing or peeling involved, the washed orange is just mulched up in the food processor and if you have an orange in your fruit basket, and enjoy baking there is a very strong chance that you will also have all of the other ingredients on hand. I am finding that using plain flour and baking powder gives better results than using S.R. flour.

As you can tell by the rich yellow colour, it is full of orange flavour and the taste of summer. I also had some beautiful organic eggs that a friend gave me which were laid by her chickens. Lemon icing provides a wonderful tart contrast to the sweetness of this cake.

I am calling my cake Orange Sunshine.

Find the original recipe here:


1 whole orange (organic if possible)
3 eggs
180 g melted butter (6.3 oz)
1 cup white sugar (or you can substitute with 3/4 cup of dextrose if you are avoiding sugar)
1 1/2 cups Self Raising Flour or (1 1/2 cups Plain Flour sifted with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder)

Let's Cook:
  • Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F.
  • Grease a 20 cm round spring form cake tin or a small loaf or bar tin.
  • Wash your orange carefully if bought from a supermarket, however if it is organic or from your backyard tree this is not as important.
  • Cut the orange into quarters, and place the pieces into your food processor. Pulse until the pieces are completely broken down. You may need to use a spatula to wipe down the side of the bowl and the lid a couple of times during this process.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and process again until all the ingredients are combined together, about 50 seconds.
  • Scrape the batter with the spatula into the cake tin and cook for around 40 minutes. When I used the loaf tin it took about 50 minutes to completely cook.
  • This cake also bakes very well in a loaf tin.

Your cake will be moist and delicious with a wonderful orange flavour. 

Whenever I combine Oranges and Lemons together it reminds me of the singing game we used to play as kids, where we would all hold hands and form an arch and sing the song Oranges and Lemons until one person was left standing and met an unfortunate end. A bit gruesome but as kids it was just great fun, and of course we didn't think about the history or the meaning of the words. As we didn't with the also gruesome fairy tales.  It was based on the traditional English nursery rhyme and singing game which referred to the bells of several churches, all close to or within the City of London. How appropriate that I am also writing this on a Sunday, speaking of church bells ringing that is.

Oranges and lemons 
Say the bells of St Clement's

You owe me five farthings
Say the bells of St. Martin's

Last verse:
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chip chop chip chop the last man is dead.

I'm sure that back then we didn't sing all of the verses but we always enjoyed singing the last verse where somebody dropped to the ground. They were innocent days back then. We took great delight in catching the last person in our arch and they were out of the game.

Do you remember playing this game as children and do children still play it?

Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes

Pauline x

Friday, February 17, 2017

Goat's cheese, Pine Nuts and Mushroom Toast

Anybody who knows me well knows that I love Goat's cheese, and when I realised that I also had large mushrooms which needed using in the refrigerator, I combined them all and this mushroom dish came together for a delicious breakfast on a very wet day during the week.

Whilst I kept cooking our meals of course, any routine I seem to have had, disappeared this week. Extreme heat at the beginning of the week, followed by a couple of days of heavy rain with embedded storms, meant that during the latter we were very hesitant about turning on the computer, watching the television or speaking on the phone because of the continuous lightning and thunder. So I did little on the computer, hence the time lapse with writing anything on my blog. It's like anything, the longer you leave it, the  harder it is to get back to it. The rain and the storms were lovely though, and  made me feel quite self indulgent. It was such a relief from the tropical heat. However, it is nice to be writing again.

So I started knitting again and completed one of the dishcloths/washers I started, without too many mistakes  ha, ha, and have started another. I am enjoying the challenge of following a knitting pattern and seeing the pattern develop and work out properly, however I still feel rather guilty about sitting and knitting at times.  It is a practical pursuit though, whilst learning new skills, and it is all part of being able to sit and relax and be absorbed in my own thoughts. Sometimes I suppose it is a throwback to working, that I was always really busy and in demand by library clients and staff that I still feel as if I should be doing something more active. So it really is a luxury that now in retirement I can sit and knit for a while with the music playing, without any external demands, before moving onto another project when I feel ready to. However reading a good book is entirely another matter. That is always ok.

So this is my first attempt at the Waffle Dishcloth Pattern from Homespun Living using Kitchen cotton. The next one will be bigger and better and will have a coloured stripe in it hopefully. I know I am much better at cooking than knitting, but I am practising my knitting. There is an easy baby's jumper in me somewhere waiting to be knitted in the future for my little grandson.

I have a breakfast or brunch recipe here to share with you. It came about quite by accident when I felt like cooking breakfast during the rainy days, and I had all of these ingredients to use. Delicious and also healthy.

If you can buy Portobello mushrooms they are the usual ones to buy for grilling and stuffing, however the large flat barbecue style mushrooms worked well for this dish.

Mushroom toast, with Goat's Cheese and Pine Nuts

4 large flat Barbecue or Portobello mushrooms
60 g hard goat's cheese, chopped
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
2 handfuls of chives, snipped or finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil for drizzling
Homemade or good quality Tomato Relish for garnish, or Caramelised Onion or whatever you prefer
Plain or Seasoned blended salt with mixed herbs and chilli (optional)
Ground black pepper

Serves 2

Let's cook:

Wipe and clean the mushrooms with damp kitchen wrap paper or a clean cloth and remove the stems. I didn't remove the stems for just the two of us as the more mushroom the better, but I would if I was cooking for friends. Save the stems though if you do remove them, as they can be chopped up and used in numerous other dishes, soups etc.

Turn the grill to a high heat.

Place the mushrooms on a foil covered grill tray, or a baking tray.

Drizzle mushrooms with extra virgin olive oil  and sprinkle with a herb flavoured salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. (I used  a SAXA Salt brand of Mixed Herbs & Chilli Blended Salt Flakes which worked well with just the hint of chilli. This can be a personal choice. Use plain salt if you prefer, or none at all)
Place mushrooms under the grill for 3 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms from the grill, spread the finely chopped cheese over the surface and sprinkle with the pine nuts. The pine nuts will toast under the grill.
Return the mushrooms to the grill for a further 2 minutes.
Remove the grill tray carefully from the oven, and scatter on the chives.
Serve with a garnish of Homemade Tomato Relish, or Caramelised Onion, or wilted spinach. Whatever you prefer.

Enjoy for breakfast or brunch.

Thanks for stopping by to read my blog.

Warmest wishes


Monday, February 13, 2017

It's Zucchini Pickling day again


Zucchini pickle is a staple in my pantry, and is a great standby to serve with cheese and biscuits or to give to a friend as a foodie gift. Everyone seems to like it, and the recipe has been given out far and wide now amongst my friends and their friends. It originally came from the wonderful Not Quite Nigella's blog, and I have tried a few variations of it but keep reverting to the original. I think everyone is agreed that at the moment it is too hot to do much cooking in the kitchen. However, I bought some in season zucchinis very cheaply at the supermarket, and rather than waste them I pickled them.

Go straight to the recipe here:

I hope it is a bit cooler for you all today so that you can enjoy what you are doing. What is so good about pickling raw vegetables is that not much cooking or heat is involved during the pickling process.  However, you do need the time whilst the zucchini are being salted, and the vinegar solution brought to the boil. This is a good recipe if you are planning a stay at home day, and the pickling can be worked around your other projects.

The Man of the House is now adding the pickled zucchini on his pizza, with cheese platters, with salad, and it all works well. It will also be delicious with Middle Eastern food, or just enjoy with a delicious goats cheese (my favourite) but any cheese will do, and with sliced pear. I am now enjoying zucchini pickle with cheese and biscuits and a couple of slices of Thai pickled chilli.

 However, just stay cool at the moment and remember to keep well hydrated. It's Monday, so  I'm off to
the supermarket.

Zucchini Pickle

Slicing Preparation time: 10 minutes with a food processor or mandolin

Waiting time: 4 hours (2 hours x 2 hours)

Cooking time: 10 minutes (5 minutes x 2)
  • 1 kg/2 pounds zucchini (thinly sliced)
  • 2 medium onions, white or red (thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon powdered turmeric
  • 2 level teaspoons yellow mustard seed
  • 1 level teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Tip: when dealing with this much zucchini and onions, use a food processor or mandolin to slice both as it will save considerable time and effort. 

Step 1 - Combine the zucchini, onions and salt and stand for two hours. Rinse well and drain. You will be surprised at the amount of liquid.

Step 2 - Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a large saucepan with a lid and bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and onion and stand for two more hours turning the zucchini over every 30 minutes to marinate in the pickling solution. Reheat and boil for 5 minutes. 

Step 3 - Cool until warm and place in hot sterilised jars. Fill the jars to the top as the mixture packs down very well. Seal tightly and turn upside down for 15 minutes. Turn right side up and you should have a seal and the lids will probably pop.

Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Beat the heat with Tarragon Olive Oil Ice Cream

 Tarragon Olive Oil Ice Cream

French Tarragon is such a versatile herb, which we are lucky to  have growing in our herb garden like a flavoursome weed.  Then in Spring it becomes a carpet  of  beautiful small yellow flowers which the bees adore. Each year after flowering we prune it back and replant some of it and then we have a healthy crop for the remainder of the year. I think we have the French variety which is the preferred one, however in savoury or sweet dishes, such as ice cream it excels in flavour, and the aniseed flavour is quite subtle. This ice cream is an absolute delight and when the man of the house suggested we should use tarragon to make an ice cream, well I was all for it. 

We worked together on the first batch, my main role being to make sure that we  followed the stages of the recipe in sequential order, and stir the custard, whilst he prepared the tarragon. Then when we were successful, he very excitedly went solo with a second batch whilst I was busy elsewhere. He is the proverbial sweet tooth of the family. Next time we will just be doubling the recipe so that we have plenty in reserve. A drizzle of olive oil and a surprise scattering of sea salt over the top before serving, and this ice cream is my very favourite flavour at the moment, and also the tarragon imparts a nice subtle olive green flavour which the photos don't do justice to. I wish I was a better foodie photographer, however the proof is in the eating and well worth the effort. I think basil could be a nice substitute for tarragon as well.  Now there's a thought. The original recipe for this delightful concoction came from the Bojon Gourmet

I hope that anyone who finds my blog isn't suffering too much from the heat at present. We have had some dreadfully hot days here previously, however today isn't too bad on the tropical Queensland coast around Mackay. Take care everyone and treat yourself to some ice cream.

Let's make ice cream


1 cup thickened cream
6 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 bunch tarragon, leaves removed from stems, and packed into 1 generous cup size
1/2 cup fruity, extra virgin olive oil


A whisk
Heat proof silicon spatula
Medium saucepan
Kitchen Aid or other brand ice cream maker bowl if possible
Heatproof glass jug
Fine mesh sieve
Large metal colander

Let's make the custard:

Some of the mystery is removed from making ice cream when you realise that it is about making a good custard which ends up frozen.
  1. Place the thickened cream in a large glass jug which holds about 1 litre (1 quart) and set aside.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl on top of a damp tea towel for stability and set aside also.
  3. This is where we scald the milk. Select a medium sized saucepan, warm the milk, sugar and salt over a medium hotplate, stirring the milk occasionally with a wooden spoon until the milk is steaming and small bubbles form on the bottom of the pan and milk attaches to the spoon. You will know when this is happening. It only takes a few minutes.
  4. When the milk is hot, dribble it slowly into the yolks in the heatproof jug, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan on a medium low hotplate, and simmer, stirring constantly with a heat proof silicon spatula scraping the sides and bottom of the pan, until the custard just begins to thicken and stick  to the bottom of the pan, taking just a few minutes
  5. Remove the saucepan from the stove immediately, and pour the hot custard into the cold, thickened cream. Place it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, and up to 2 days, so you can work well in advance. On the other hand, I haven't actually done this, but the Bojon Gourmet who originated this recipe says "if you are in a hurry, you can place the mixture in an ice water bath and stir until it is cold."
Let's prepare the Tarragon:

Boil some water in a medium sized saucepan. Meanwhile have a bowl of iced water ready on the bench. 
Blanch the tarragon in the boiling water until bright green, 5-10 seconds, so don't leave the stove. Drain through a a colander, and then plunge the tarragon into the iced water.
When it is cold, drain it, and use your hands to squeeze all of the water out.

Place the blanched, squeezed tarragon into a blender or food processor. 
Remove your cold ice cream base from the fridge, and add about a cup of the cold ice cream base and blend until smooth. slowly adding the remaining ice cream base. Our food processor wasn't powerful enough to completely blitz the tarragon in  this mixture but it didn't affect the outcome. 
Strain the mixture, now nicely and subtly green tinged  through a fine mesh sieve.

Churning the ice cream:

Place the ice cream base into a pre-chilled container and place it in the freezer for half an hour to get it really cold, shaking or stirring it every 10 minutes. This produces a smoother ice cream and that's what we want.
Spin the ice cream in a pre-frozen ice cream maker bowl until it is the consistency of a thick milkshake.
Transfer the ice cream to a storage container, preferably pre-chilled in the freezer, and freeze for at least 2 hours for a scoopable consistency. Ours was made 24 hours in advance so n ow it gets interesting.

We needed at least 13 portions, so Mr. HRK who I have already mentioned was the driving force behind making this ice cream came up with the idea of using silicon muffin pans to freeze the ice cream in, so that it would be much easier to transfer scoops onto the serving plates.

Lightly oil the muffin pan holes, and spoon the ice cream into the holes. This way you are sure of how many exact servings you have and the scoops will just pop out of silicon the muffin trays.

Serve scoops of the tarragon coloured ice cream with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, flakes or grains. If you can get Maldon that is fine, however we had some nice French granulated salt we were gifted from Provence so that worked well.

The ice cream is best consumed within a week of being made, but ideally will keep for several months if necessary. As if it would ever last that long in the average household freezer.

This recipe came from The Bojon Gourmet.

Bon appetit and warm wishes everyone.

Thankyou for visiting my blog.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ham and Kale Soup

Ham and Kale soup

 I  made a large batch of Ham and Kale Soup yesterday, however cooking won't be my main priority this week. It will be easy meals all the way.  

I am going to try and improve my knitting skills, starting on a few small projects such as dishcloths, still for the kitchen though, which can also double as face washers. If they are good enough, I might even be able to give them away as gifts. I would never have thought of knitting dishcloths, using "Kitchen cotton" instead of wool, but their are a lot of committed homemakers doing it in the blogging world, and they should last 12-18  months, saving the need to spend money on lots of Chux and cleaning cloths. And they look attractive and wash well. However the real reason for doing it, is that it is a good reason to get me motivated again with knitting. Now that I have started, it is interesting how much skill is involved in such a small project. Thanks to the Down to Earth Forum and the Going Green and Slightly Grey blogger, Chel for the inspiration to do this. 

I learned basic knitting skills from my Mum, who was a very good knitter as was my Aunty Eileen. I still have a couple of beautiful woollen jumpers that she made for Mum many years ago, I guess they fall into the vintage category now ha, ha, but are still perfect and so warm. However Mum was left handed and seemed to find it difficult to teach me, but to be honest I don't think I had the time to really commit to it as well. I was studying music requiring a lot of practice, as well as needing to study, and then work and study, so time was limited. 

However, one of the many advantages of retirement is being able to commit time to learning new skills, when the time is right and you are interested. Knitting is also great for the concentration, a nice thing to do during the quiet times, and it is good to start with a project that shouldn't take too long. Even if I only get one knitted this week, I'll be happy.

 I also plan to do some sewing for my adorable little Grandson Hugo. They are taking a trip to Denmark and France in a couple of months, so I'll make him a couple of warm little caps and whatever else I can manage. 

Kale is very cheap at the moment so I made a large batch of  my Ham and Kale soup, originally a Mindfood recipe I think, a nice light summer soup, which freezes beautifully. It is one of Shannon's favourite soups so I'll freeze a lot of it and take it up to her in our car refrigerator when we visit next time. It is also on the menu for lunch today. I cooked the stock overnight in the slow cooker to avoid increasing the heat in the kitchen during the day, and then cooked the final stage during the morning. 

Here's the recipe, I love the saltiness of the ham, mixed with the earthiness of the beans and the light flavour of the kale. It is so economical to make and would easily feed a family of 6.

Ham and Kale Soup


1 smoked ham hock or frozen bone from your Christmas Ham
1 onion, halved
2 sticks celery
1 carrot, sliced
3 garlic cloves
2 parsley stalks, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks. white part only, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
400g can cannellini beans, drained
1 bunch kale (about 12 leaves), trimmed and chopped
Shaved Parmesan, to serve
Olive oil, to serve

Let’s make the stock:

Place the ham bone, onion, celery, carrot, garlic and parsley in a large saucepan or slow cooker bowl.

Slow cooker method:
Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker bowl and fill the pot with 3 litres of water. Cook on low for 8 hours or on medium for 4 hours. Half way through the cooking, adjust the ham bone if necessary so that all of the bone will be cooked and the meat tender by the end.  Remove the ham hock and discard the skin. Shred meat and set aside. Strain stock and set aside.

Large saucepan method:
Place all the ingredients in the saucepan and cover with 3 litres of water. Cook, simmering for 30 minutes (use a spoon to skim the surface).

Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, or until meat is tender and falling off the bone. Remove the ham hock and discard the skin. Shred meat and set aside. Strain stock and set aside.

Let’s make the soup:

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, leeks, and garlic. Cook, stirring for 4-5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add cannellini beans, kale, and ham hock meat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until kale is tender.

Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon into soup bowls, top with shaved Parmesan, and drizzle with olive oil.
Ham and Kale soup

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thai Pickled Chillies

Chilli bushes grow very well in my corner of the tropical world, and indeed throughout most of coastal Queensland. I couldn't imagine life without at least one chilli bush in my herb patch. I had about 8 beautifully red, homegrown chillies set aside in my refrigerator waiting until I had enough to make some chilli jam. And then I saw this recipe as I was pouring over Nigella Lawson's latest recipe book whilst enjoying my early morning cup of tea. One of life's great pleasures. So out with the chilli jam for now and in with this pickle. 

I never pickled at all much before I retired, and now I am at risk of becoming the Pickling Queen. Although my Mum was always pickling something or making chutneys and jams. Condiments are such an asset in the kitchen and rather than waste anything in season, I often pickle it.  I have a couple of wonderful friends who bring me their empty jam and pickle bottles, which are very much appreciated, and of course I reciprocate with a couple of full ones back to them. There can be a lot of comfort to be found in the ritual of cooking a family or traditional dish such as Roast chicken or some fish, or indeed a simple traybake. However, just add a few new and exciting condiments to the table which can stand confidently on their own, but serve to enhance the main dish, and the meal rises to new heights.

So now these pickled chillies which are so quick and easy, can bask in their glory alongside some other side dishes. I made them early this morning before I even ate breakfast.


3/4 cup (75g) fresh red chillies ( not the very hot Bird's Eye Chilli variety) About 8 chillies required.
1 1/2 cups (325 ml) rice wine vinegar
2 small or resealable jars with lids

Thinly slice the chillies crosswise and put them into your preserving jars and pour the rice wine vinegar over them. Some of the seeds will just fall out of the chillies as you are slicing them, and I

My chilli bush

throw them over my sunny herb and vegetable patches working on the principle that about 30% of them should self seed. I don't even bother digging the seeds in, they are so easy to grow. That way nothing is wasted and you will continue to have chilli bushes coming up in your garden, which I love, as they are also very decorative, and quite pest resistant.

 I really like the idea of using two smaller jars so that the chillies are well covered and also one jar is kept hygienically sealed whilst the other one is used instead of being dipped into all the time until the contents are completely finished.

Leave in the refrigerator for 48 hours before opening them, and then they will keep in a sealed bottle for about a month.

Chillies have so many health benefits, including relief for sinus sufferers, higher levels of Vitamin C than oranges, and many more, that they should be offered with every meal, not just Thai cuisine.

Makes approx. 500ml.

Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes

Pauline xx

I originally saw this recipe in Nigella Lawson's "Simply Nigella" and just had to make it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Orange and Fennel infused Chicken Traybake

Mediterranean Fennel is a vegetable that I should be using more in my cooking and my salads because it is so healthy and delicious. There are some really nice and reasonably priced small fennel bulbs available at the supermarkets at the moment, even though in the Mediterranean where it originates from since ancient times it is a Winter season vegetable. It is the perfect vegetable to partner with chicken in a traybake as it is very low-calorie, has a sweet anise-like flavour and contains lots of fibre.

 Infuse the chicken and fennel with orange, lemon and mustard and it becomes a delicious dish. Traybakes are such a practical way to cook for your family or to entertain with, however with this one, the flavours should be allowed to marinate for around 24 hours, so a little bit of forward planning is required. However, I have been known to only marinate it for half a day and it was still very enjoyable.

I just serve this with any other vegetables I have on hand. Mashed potato with another green vegetable such as broccoli would be nice.

 Orange and Fennel infused Chicken Traybake

Serves 6


12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
4 small Fennel bulbs, or 2 large ones if that is all you can find  (approx 1 kg. total, though less wouldn’t matter)
100ml (5 tblsp.) canola oil or extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 x 15ml tablespoon or so for drizzling on the chicken when cooking
 Zest of 2 oranges and the juice of one, and juice of 1 lemon (about 100ml altogether)
2 teaspoons of herb flavoured salt flakes
4 teaspoons fennel seeds

Let’s cook 

Cut the feathery fronds from the fennel and put them in a resealable bag in the fridge as a garnish for later. Cut the bulbs of fennel into quarters and then cut each quarter, lengthways, into 3. Put the fennel to the side as you make the marinade.

Place a large freezer bag, and these are so cheap I recommend you buy a packet of them, inside a wide-necked measuring jug or similar, pour in the oil, add the orange zest and juice (and lemon juice if using, I didn’t) and spoon in the salt, fennel seeds and mustard. Stir briefly to mix.

Remove the bag from the jug and, while holding it up add a quarter of the chicken pieces, then a quarter of the fennel pieces, and so on until everything’s been used up.

Seal the bag tightly at the top, lay the bag in a lasagne style dish and squelch it about so that you cover as much of the chicken as possible with the marinade. This will be enough marinade. Leave in the fridge overnight or up to 1 day. During the day you can squish it about in the bag every few hours if you are at home.

Have a shallow roasting tin measuring around 46 x 34 cm ready. Not essential but the chicken will brown up better this way.

Remove the marinating chicken and fennel from the fridge and tip the contents of the bag – marinade and all – into the roasting pan. Using tongs, arrange the chicken pieces so that they are sitting, skin-side up on top of the fennel. Leave it for 30 minutes or so, to come up to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 200 ℃.

Drizzle some more oil onto the chicken, and cook in the oven for 1 hour. The chicken will then be cooked through and bronzed on top, and the luscious fennel will be soft.

Put the chicken and fennel onto a warmed serving plate and put the pan and juices  over a medium heat and boil the juices, stirring as you watch it turn syrupy, which should take about 1 ½ - 2 minutes in the tin. (Use a saucepan if your pan isn’t stove friendly.)

Pour the reduced sauce over the  chicken and fennel, and then tear over the reserved fennel fronds for presentation.

Covered leftovers, will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
The idea for this recipe originally came from Nigella Lawson, who has produced some amazing traybake recipes.

Bon appetit!

Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Enjoy a vegetarian meal with Mediterranean Black Lentil and Vegetable Bolognese

Black Lentil and Vegetable Bolognese

I saw this recipe after Australia Day when we were feeling that a vegetarian meal was in order after consuming a lot of meat, as you do, at that time of year. Luckily I had all of these ingredients in my pantry, and after all one of the first rules of Italian cooking is that you try and use the ingredients that you have on hand. I was also rather excited about the idea of using puy lentils with a vegetable and Bolognese sauce. It must have been my inner Italian stirring as well, although there is no evidence that I possess any unfortunately.

My Man of the House is really into researching my Family History and so far he has discovered that on my Mothers Maternal side, my lineage goes as far back as Rollo, the famous Viking from the TV series, who is also the Great, Great, Great, Grandfather of William the Conqueror. Perhaps there is another great in there but anyway you get the idea. I was excited that that meant I was also related to Ragnar Lothbrok, but apparently he is a mythical character and there is no proof that he actually existed. Oh well, I will just have to be happy with Rollo. On my Dad's side I have a Pilgrim history with my ancestors sailing from Plymouth in England, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in America on the Mayflower. I think now that  I may have inherited some of the Pilgrim tendencies which are appropriate for a enjoying a simple life in my retirement, baking bread, making relishes and pickles, my own cheese etc.  There are also other lineages as well which I won't bother about, but perhaps I need to have a DNA test done to ascertain which of those traits I really do have. Perhaps there will be a little Italian somewhere in my makeup.

Thanks to Green Kitchen Stories for this recipe. I didn't have green stoned olives on hand so I substituted black instead, which don't  provide as much colour contrast as the black but they tasted great anyway. I would recommend using the green though if you have them. I also added a couple of chopped home grown Japanese eggplant which were delicious with the other vegetables. The textures in the dish work well together, provided by the grated and chopped carrot, the eggplant, and the lentils which stay in tact throughout the whole cooking process. Other vegetables on hand can be added as well.

All in all, served with al dente tagliatelle pasta, grated Parmesan, some shredded basil and parsley and olive oil it was delicious, and quite guilt free.

I hope you can try this recipe, and as a result the children of the house will also eat more vegetables than they realise.

So, my friends have you had a DNA test done, or are you considering it?


100g / 1/2 cup uncooked Puy (or beluga) lentils
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 sticks celery, rinsed
4 tbsp green or black olives, stones removed and slightly bruised
1 tbsp. fresh basil
1 tbsp. fresh oregano
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 x 800g tin tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To serve
Pasta of choice
Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley
olive oil

Let's cook:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Meanwhile, chop one of the carrots and the celery into 1/2 inch chunks and add them to the pan along with the olives and dried herbs (if using).

Let this soften for a couple of minutes, add the red wine and let cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add the lentils, half the vegetable stock, bay leaves, tinned tomatoes, and fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Grate the remaining carrot and add it as well.

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked, stirring from time to time so as not to burn the base of the sauce. Add the remaining stock or water, little by little, to loosen the sauce when ever it is looking dry. Taste and adjust the spices to your liking.

Cook your pasta of choice. Serve the sauce stirred through the pasta, topped with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley or other herbs and a drizzle of oil.

Bon appetit!

Thanks for visiting,

Warm wishes