Friday, 28 April 2017

The Simplest ever Honey and Date Biscuits for Afternoon Tea

Honey and Date Biscuits



We drove home  from Cairns on Wednesday, a long 10 hour drive because of all the road works and the trucks, and it is such a relief to be home. Considering Mackay also suffered the onslaught from Cyclone Debbie, our garden looked in tact thanks to the support of our friends and neighbours, and our house was surprisingly free of mould and dust inside. I placed lots of DampRid containers in the cupboards before we left and I think that helped to keep the cupboards fresh and mould free, which can be a problem during wet weather here in the Tropics.

 However driving past Bowen and through Prosperpine, it looked like a war zone.  Trees denuded of foliage, road signs partially pulled out of the ground and at awkward angles with the road,  and houses in various states of disrepair. I believe it is even worse around Airlie Beach. I really feel for all of those people who are still coping with the lodgement of insurance claims and trying to get their homes and lives back in order.

I know I am happily at home when the baking starts and there are fresh flowers in the house. The heavy rain from Cyclone Debbie has resulted in a beautiful flush of tropical flowers in the garden , so it was lovely to have Heliconias and Ixoras to  pick and bring inside.



I saw this biscuit recipe on my friend Garrick's Facebook page the other day, I used to work with him, and I had to try it. Biscuit recipes need to be quick and easy and are often cooked on the go with short notice, as everyone is eagerly  waiting for morning or afternoon tea and time is at a premium.

These biscuits are just processed very quickly in the Food Processor. Our daughter Shannon came home with us for a holiday and thinks they are delicious. To be honest she is probably the main reason I made them, as it is always a really nice feeling to cook for my family and she really appreciates homemade food. Shannon is a great judge of good cakes and biscuits so I am happy to pass this recipe on.

Honey and date biscuits

Made on the trot for afternoon tea. Simplest recipe going. (Garrick)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain flour
2 cups oatmeal or muesli (I used Rolled Oats)
8 dates (chopped and stones removed)
1 egg
4 tblspns honey
100g oil
(1/2 cup nuts optional. I used shelled pistachios this time)

Let's cook:

Process quickly all ingredients at once in the Food processor. Place heaped teaspoons full on a baking tray lined with baking paper. 150C (fan) 180C (normal oven) 12-15 mins. Makes 18.

I dusted mine with a light sprinkling of icing sugar, just for presentation.

When we were outside in the courtyard  enjoying our afternoon tea and the biscuits,  Lorikeets were frollicking in our bird bath. They are such beautiful birds to watch, very noisy though. At the moment, they must think they are in heaven or a five star restaurant, as in our back yard they have three trees in flower to choose from. The very old Melaleuca Paperbark, the Golden Penda, and the New Guinea Bottlebrush. It is hilarious and entertaining to watch them flitting from tree to tree and squabbling as they go, and then stopping for drinks at the birdbath. Even our resident  birds are  foodies, ha, ha.





Thanks for  visiting and have  a nice weekend.

If you  make these biscuits or do something different with the recipe,  please  send me a comment.  I'd love to  know  what  you  think   of them.

Best wishes
Pauline


Monday, 24 April 2017

Enjoying Tolga in Far North Queensland, and the Rocky Creek War Memorial

Rocky Creek War Memorial  Park





Original  and restored Tolga Railway  Station





We are travelling on our way home so this is an update on what we are doing from my phone, on the run.  It is nice to be back in Queensland. A timely  drive yesterday  for Neil and I up to Tolga, located  on the  Atherton  Tablelands near Cairns  with our War Veterans being in everyone's thoughts  today. Rocky Creek just North of Tolga is the site  of  the  Rocky Creek  War Memorial  Park, situated  on the 2/2 Australian General Hospital  laundry  and medical  stores site. It was a 3000 bed hospital  treating over 60,000 patients  from 1943 to 1945. During WW II, the Tablelands area became the largest military  base in Australia, with camps scattered  throughout  including  Atherton,  Ravenshoe, and  Tinaroo. Many of our World War II Veterans  went  there  for training  before serving  overseas.


We called in to take photos  for  our good friend Lou of the memorial to her  dear old Dad's Infantry Battalion, the 2/11. Photo above.  We had the pleasure  of meeting  him recently in Perth.

 The original  Tolga railway  station  which the soldiers  would  have  passed through  is now a very  well restored and maintained  Military  Museum in Tolga and well worth  a visit . The Tolga Wood and Art Gallery across  the road from the Museum  is a lovely and welcoming resting spot for morning tea and some shopping. No photos of this unfortunately as it was raining.   It was a really  nice morning out up on the Tablelands at Tolga.

There is also a 72 hour  rest area adjacent  to  the War Memorial  Park for self contained  caravans  and motorhomes for a $5.00 a night  donation to support  the  War Memorial.  It is all very well  managed.

Best wishes

Pauline

Monday, 10 April 2017

Enjoying Lunch at Lake Charlotte Winery

Lake Charlotte is a boutique winery and restaurant nestled in the midst of the picturesque Perth Hills region of Western Australia. I'm so pleased we decided to have lunch at this restaurant, it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.When you are in South Western Australia, it is a must to enjoy what at least  one winery has to offer. We chose Lake Charlotte winery this time as it is one of the closest to the Chidlow area where we are living, and I had been there before on a previous visit with M&M and wanted Neil to enjoy it as well. It is only open on Saturday and Sunday and some Public Holidays. It is family owned and is For Sale. The current owners have been there for 12 years and want to spend more time with family and grandchildren. 

View of Lake Charlotte from the balcony of the restaurant
Neil and I were married nearly 40 years ago, yes I was child bride ha, ha, and we decided that this lunch would be the start of a series of celebrations leading up to our Wedding Anniversary this month. These days 40 years is really something to celebrate and I would do it all again.

 Lake Charlotte isn't located in the more well known Swan Valley region, but is still only one hour from the Perth CBD. It is a family owned business where the owner chats to the diners ensuring everything is to their liking. It was a cool day when we were there, and we were offered blankets to put over our knees as being North Queenslanders, we feel the cold more. However I declined as it wasn't that cold once the plastic blinds were lowered. A nice thought though.




A very nice Semillon from the vineyard
This photo taken from our dining table
Lavendar is cultivated and sold in various forms at Lake Charlotte, free of pesticides and herbicides. I didn't see all of the Lavendar products available for sale this time, but there is an extensive range. The kitchen is surrounded by beautiful lavendar and rosemary, a ubiquitous theme in Western Australia.


Relaxing and enjoying a drop of the Semillon

Just chilling out on the balcony

We started with the Pumpkin soup as it was a very cool day, and the breeze had sprung up just as we arrived. Hot pumpkin soup was the obvious choice and it was delicious, however it could have been a little hotter for me.

Pork on Hot Rocks

We ordered a loin of pork cooked on very hot rocks for the main meal. They are well known for their hot rocks method of cooking pork and steak and it didn't disappoint. The meat is seared on both sides when it arrives at the table, and then we cooked it ourselves, by slicing off thin portions and cooking it to our liking. It was a delicious cut of meat and it cooked to perfection. Neil is already working on how we can create some of these hot rocks at home from a piece of marble we have. Has anyone already done that at home? The pork was served with a delicious side salad with pear and potatoes.






The pork was delicious with a glass of Lake Charlotte Shiraz.



Wine tasting is available as well for guests



The dessert cabinet looked very inviting, however I find now that eating 3 large courses in the middle of the day is challenging as I get older. One table of guests had decided to sample all of the sweets with tea and coffee instead of ordering a main meal. Why not? So I just admired all of the desserts as they were taken to their table. However my eye was definitely on the Lemon Meringue Pie.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes

Pauline

Friday, 7 April 2017

Chilling out in Chidlow and Preparing Soups and Stews for the Winter



Winter isn't too far away over here in the Eastern Perth Hills, and our beautiful Grand Dogs Kali and Locky  are allowed inside this morning as the temperatures plummeted to 6 degrees overnight. So today I have started preparing winter meals to store in the freezer. At this time of year, leading up to Winter, many people succumb to head colds and the influenza virus which can be very debilitating. I am a great believer that Chicken and Vegetable Soups based on homemade chicken stock strengthen our immune system and are also a healthy and warming meal. This helps to defend our bodies against the viruses that are prevalent every year, particularly in the colder climates. 

M&M and Hugo are travelling overseas at the moment, so if they arrive home tired and perhaps not feeling too well, there will be a nourishing stockpile of food available for them from their freezer.  Busy working families can also do this, by just deciding to allocate a day on the weekend to prepare meals for the week and freeze them or to make some simple but nourishing homemade soups and stews in preparation for those Winter nights when you might be feeling unwell or tired, and don't feel like cooking. We all have nights like that.

Chicken soup and beef stew both start with the the trio of onions, carrots and celery, the magic combination which when sauteed  in a combination of oil and butter until the onion is transparent, then forms the base for whatever meat, stock and vegetables you wish to add.  This is an economical and time saving way to approach winter cooking, while you have all of these vegetables on hand. I cooked them together this time, but you certainly don't need to.

 A carton of Chicken stock or beef stock, or a litre of homemade stock, is added to this trio base of sauteed vegetables and brought to the boil, and then brought back to a simmer. Even if stock isn't homemade and comes from the supermarket it will still be beneficial. Supermarket stock just doesn't contain the gelatine from the bones, which is the beneficial component of homemade stock. 

I  then add some fresh chopped parsley, some more chopped vegetables such as zucchini, perhaps some barley, about 1/2 cup, and then let it simmer until the barley is nice and soft. I add a little salt or pepper if I think it needs it. Often  soup made form homemade stock does need a little salt, as stock should be cooked without the addition of salt.

Beef Stew
(Apologies no photos of this, as we just ate it with toast last night.) I will try and add a couple later.
I often cook this stew in my slow cooker at home, however in Matthew's kitchen I am using a large heavy based pot, which will simmer well on the stove for most of the day. 
This recipe makes enough stew so that I can freeze half of it in portions, and we can eat the rest during the week. I improvise with this recipe each time that I cook it, that is the beauty of cooking the old-fashioned stew.

Ingredients:
1 kilo of Oyster Blade beef cubed, or stewing steak will do although this can be tough
2 chopped onions
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
3 potatoes cut into quarters
2 zucchinis chopped
2 teaspoons mixed herbs, or fresh parsley and thyme (be careful not to overdo the thyme)
1 bay leaf if you have it
1 litre of beef stock or half red wine and stock (I didn't use red wine this time as little Hugo will be eating this as well) Add more liquid later if you need to.
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons good quality tomato sauce
2 tablespoons plain flour
salt and pepper to season
1/2 cup pearl barley (instead of using cornflour to thicken the stew)

Method:

I like to coat the cubed  beef in plain flour and  a bit of salt and pepper first, and then brown the beef in batches on  a high heat in the cooking pot so that there are delicious brown scrapings in the bottom of the pan. This is what gives the stew it's flavour. It only needs to be browned though, not cooked through.

Remove the browned beef to a bowl, add a little more oil to the cooking pot and add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute the vegetables on a low heat until the onions are transparent.

Return the beef  to the pot, add the stock, or wine and stock,  and bring to the boil. Reduce back to a moderate heat and add the potatoes, herbs, sauces, pepper, and barley.

Replace the lid, turn to a low heat, and allow to simmer for a couple of hours. Then add the zucchinis and any other softer vegetables you may want to use and keep simmering until the barley is soft and the beef is tender. This could take up to 4 hours.

Taste it to test if more seasoning is needed and serve with chopped parsley and steamed vegetables, or just have it on toast, particularly if it is Sunday evening. It is full of essential vitamins and minerals.

Bon appetit!

Once chicken soup and a beef stew are simmering on the stove simultaneously, the work is done really and then it is just a case of keeping an eye on them occasionally to ensure they are still simmering, doing a taste test after a couple of hours to see if more seasoning or herbs are needed. This was also perfect timing as the quarter-final of the Davis Cup was  on TV today, and as we are all tennis players we enjoy watching the tennis, so it has been a nice day at home. Jordan Thompson and Nick Kyrgios both won their singles against very accomplished American players today so tomorrow should be a good day of doubles.

Late this afternoon though, we took  Kali and Locky down to the park for a game with the tennis ball which they love, and to give us all some exercise. Kali is the black and white  Border Collie female, and Locky is the Chocolate and white male. We are really enjoying looking after them while M&M are away. 

She is such a star in the making.

A quick little bike ride


The dogs keeping an eye on Neil as he mends the gate. There is always work to be done.
Thanks for dropping by and have an enjoyable weekend. Happy Winter cooking.

Best wishes

Pauline

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Crunchiest Red Cabbage, Chickpea, Carrot and Mint Salad


Red cabbage is the perfect vegetable for a tasty, colorful and interesting salad. Salads are on the menu again now that the weather has warmed up over here in Perth. When we first arrived two weeks ago in W.A. it was cold and windy, and having come from the land of salads in hot and humid  North Queensland we happily embraced vegetables, soups and other warming dishes. I first saw this sensational recipe on the beautiful Lorraine's website at  Not Quite Nigella, and was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to make it. Red cabbage stays fresh for a week or more in the fridge, so a red cabbage salad can be planned well ahead if you only shop weekly. The grapes are a delightfully fresh addition to the mix. I added the pistachios because I had them on hand and love the crunch of nuts. I also substituted the mint for the dill because we were having lamb with the salad, however dill works equally as well.

This salad is absolutely delicious, in fact I can't emphasise enough just how delicious it is. Neil loves it as well, which is great because we will be eating it for the next couple of days to accompany whatever else we are eating. However, it is delicious eaten on it's own.

I hope you can find time to make it.

Ingredients:
1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
2 medium carrots, grated
400g/15oz tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Small handful of grapes, halved
Small handful of pistachios
1/4 cup chopped green onions
20g fresh mint, finely sliced or 20g fresh dill, fronds only
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 finely grated garlic clove
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, mixed with 1 tablespoon milk or buttermilk.
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method:
  1. Put on some nice music and prepare the vegetables and herbs
  2. Toss them all together with the nuts in a large bowl
  3. Whisk the oil, the lemon juice, the grated garlic clove, and the honey in a small bowl.
  4. Add the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth
  5. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste
  6. Toss the mayonnaise with the vegetables

Thank you to my friends for visiting.

Best wishes,

Pauline



Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Food on Your Plate Festival in Perth, March, 2017


One of the joys of travelling is serendipitously stumbling across an event, close to your heart, by complete surprise. The weather in Perth and the nearby Hills is stunning at the moment and it must be one of the best times of the year to visit the area. A maximum of 31 degrees is forecast today and the mornings are cool and crisp. I caught the train into Perth from Midland on Thursday which only took about 20 minutes and is an excellent service, with regular trains running. As I was walking from the station past Myer, and looking down into Forrest Place, I saw a host of food stalls, and marquees and realised I had found a substantial food event, the Farmer on Your Plate. It was a prestigious one as the Governor of Western Australia was opening it in an hour.

 My real mission for heading to the city this time was to do some shopping for no. 1 son, so I did that, and then hurried back to the Farmer on your Plate Festival. The wonderful aspect about this event is that most people representing the food producers of the area were giving out free samples of their produce to promote it hoping that you would then buy their product. It aims to link people to the people who produce food on their plate. I sampled some delicious organic minced beef meatballs from Blackwood Valley Beef with the chef happy to pose for a photo. Served with a miso sauce they got my vote. The taste did linger on my palate as he promised.

I'm sorry about the quality of the photos here. I took them with my phone, and being away from home I don't have all the software loaded on the computer I am using to improve them as I would like.



Bocelli's  Bagel Bar

A coffee at Bocelli's Bagel Bar was needed by this stage, and it was one of the best coffees I have had in Perth so far, with a delicious selection of cakes, pastries and bagels, and pizzas and other lunchtime food to choose from. This place is well worth a visit if you are in Perth City. They are an award winning coffee shop.


A sample of the very nice selection available


If you like bagels, there were plenty to choose from
Stuart Laws is a well know Perth chef, currently leading the team at Don Tapa, Fremantle as the Executive Chef. He cooks up a style of Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine at Don Tapa. Worth a try I suggest. He was cooking up a storm and seemed to be really enjoying himself as well. I tasted some of the organic pork he cooked and it tasted quite amazing. He had curries simmering on the stove ensuring there was ongoing food for the whole morning available. Ladies were approaching him over the counter and asking for hugs, but I didn't think I had better do that. It was entertaining though. He is obviously a nice guy and well known in Perth. He originates from Carnarvon.





Beautiful Pomegranates galore for sampling
So all in all it was a really enjoyable morning at the food festival  promoting an amazing and diverse range of produce but surprisingly humble and generous in it's whole approach.
Delicious Dukkah for sampling and purchase



Well done Perth farmers, growers and chefs.

Best wishes to my friends

Pauline