Monday, 27 November 2017

Pomegranate Flavoured Baba Ganoush



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

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

Ingredients:

Serves 6-8

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes

Pauline


Saturday, 25 November 2017

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

  

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


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







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


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





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


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

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


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

Have a great week everyone.

Pauline





Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Beef, Sauerkraut and Mango Chutney Goulash

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


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

Ingredients:

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

Let's cook:

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

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

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

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

Transfer this mixture, and the sauerkraut to the slow cooker. Add the meat and stir everything to combine,  and cook on high for 3-4 hours depending on your slow cooker, or on slow for 6-8 minutes. Cooking this dish in a casserole in the oven is also possible. Just press a piece of baking paper over the contents and cover with the lid. Cook in the oven undisturbed, for 1 1/2 hours. Taste it and add more seasoning if necessary. Check if the meat is tender and cook for a bit longer if necessary.

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

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

Another quick sauerkraut idea:

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


Best wishes

Pauline


Monday, 20 November 2017

Traditional Christmas Plum Pudding


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


Fruit soaking in brandy

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

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

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb sultanas/24 oz/680 g
2 oz mixed peel/65 g
1/2 lb raisins/8 oz/230 g
1/4 lb currants/4 oz/115 g
2 oz. Glace cherries/65 g
2 oz Almonds/65 g
1/2 lb/8 oz/230 g butter
3-6 tablspoons Brandy or Sherry (some extra for flambe if you wish)
1/2 lb./8 oz/230 g Brown sugar
4 eggs
1 grated carrot
6 oz flour/170 g
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 level teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
6 oz. soft breadcrumbs/170 g
N.B. Packets of Mixed dried fruit can be used to the equivalent weight of fruit listed above.

Method

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

I serve this pudding with my Delicious Boiled Egg Custard.

I'm fermenting again.



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

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

Here is the recipe.



Best wishes

Pauline

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Eggplant Parmigiana


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

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

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

Let's Cook:

Ingredients:

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

Tomato Sauce ingredients:

4 x400 g tins of tomatoes
2  finely chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Himalayan Rock salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
A little sugar for balance

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

Let's cook:

Making the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large, wide pan, I used my Scanpan. Add the onions and garlic and saute gently for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the tins of tomatoes, the thyme and the bay leaf.
Bring the mixture to a high simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes until the tomato mixture has thickened nicely.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and about a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Your tomato sauce is ready for layering. How simple is that?

Preparing the Eggplants:

Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C.

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

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

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

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

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

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

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

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Best wishes

Pauline










Sunday, 12 November 2017

Nigella's Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream



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

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

Anyway let's cook:

Ingredients for the cake:

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


Ingredients for the Icing

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

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


Let's make the icing now:

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

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

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

Best wishes

Pauline























Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Asian Pork Meatballs for a Melbourne Cup lunch




These delicious  pork Meatballs lend themselves very well to being baked in the oven and for me that is much easier than standing over a hot sizzling fry pan, as nice as that sounds, and cooking them carefully and hoping that they don't break up when I turn them over. The dipping sauce requires no cooking, just pulsing in the food processor, and tastes very fresh with a hint of tang. These are my kind of meatballs for summer eating. I was asked to take a plate to a Melbourne Cup lunch yesterday and these were a hit. I made them smaller as they were really like an appetiser, and provided toothpicks for easy selection. It's amazing how whenever I take meatballs with a dipping sauce to a function, and I often have, they do the vanishing act which is great and just how I like it.

It's always fun to go to a Melbourne Cup lunch, and yesterday we won the sweep. Well actually we didn't, our adorable little Grandson Hugo did. Neil bought a sweep entry in his name, as well as ours and he won. So now at only 16 months old, he has some cash earned from gambling. New little push along tricycle coming up Hugo. We will tell him when he is much older how we paid for his first little bike, ha, ha.

I hope you enjoy my Melbourne Cup meatballs as well.

Makes 30 meatballs

Meatball Ingredients:

750 g minced pork
1 lightly beaten egg
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
2 tablespoons shallots or spring onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons carrot, finely grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably low salt
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander, or basil
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Panko or fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons coriander
2 tablespoons mint
3 tablespoons soy sauce, low salt
1/4 cup sesame oil

Let's cook:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Combine the milk and the Panko breadcrumbs in a large bowl, to soak for 5 minutes.
Add all of the ingredients for the meatballs to the large bowl.
Mix together with your hands until well combined and the herbs are distributed though out the mixture.



Shape the mixture into meatballs and place onto the prepared baking sheet.
Sprinkle some of them with black sesame seeds.



Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or nicely browned.

Method for the sauce:

In your blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the coriander and the mint. Blend until well mixed together.
Add in the coriander and the mint and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped and mixed with the liquid.
Put aside in a covered container.

I served these at a Melbourne Cup lunch as finger food, with dipping sauce and tooth picks on the side. However, they could be served with rice and stir fried vegetables for a main meal.

Do you have a favourite finger food dish on a plate that you like to take to a lunch or as an appetiser? I also like fresh finger sandwiches to eat in those situations, do you?  Prawns also go down well.
Have a great day.

Best wishes

Pauline





Sunday, 5 November 2017

My Green Mango Chutney recipe, it's spicy and sweet



This Mango Chutney, made from green mangoes freshly foraged, is a family recipe from my Mum and her family which I have always used. Anglo-Indian style chutneys basically consist of a fruit or vegetable, malt or cider vinegars, sugar, herbs and spices. The sugar and vinegar act as preservatives and as the ratio of sugar to fruit is the same, it should only be eaten as a condiment because of the high sugar content which is similar to jam. You could say that this is a sweet and sour version of a mango jam. The cooking technique is similar to jam making. It is delicious eaten on the side with Christmas Ham (which is traditional in our house), grilled bacon, Indian curries and dishes, chickpea salads or with cheese. I sometimes add it to some minced beef dishes or any that I think need added flavour. Beef Chow Mein comes to mind. When I make this, it also means that Christmas is just around the corner.

Dates, raisins and ginger ready for the pot
This recipe makes from 13-15 jars depending on the size of your jars. Smaller ones are good for gifts, and are always appreciated by friends as this is a big project in the scheme of time spent preparing the ingredients and stirring the pot, and then bottling. This time, I peeled and chopped up the mangoes by hand the day before, refrigerated them overnight in a covered container and they were still beautifully fresh the next day. We had handpicked them (see story here) only the day before from the nearby Old Station Teahouse. A word of caution about handpicking mangoes if you haven't done it before. As you pull the mango off the branch, stand clear of the sap which drips with gay abandon and a very sweet smell.  

My chutney making became a 3 day event. Picking them one day, peeling and chopping them and sorting out the other ingredients the next day, and cooking the mixture up on the third day, as well as chopping and slicing the other dried ingredients. However the flavour is worth it and this sensational, caramelised reduction will last in your pantry for 3-5 years, and then the opened bottle continues to mature in the refrigerator for a long time. I have never had to throw any out. There is no need for any nasty numbered preservatives or additives that we see on the supermarket chutney and relish labels. The vinegar, sugar and spices do the preservation work.

Ingredients are ready on the bench for the following day
Let's cook:


Ingredients:

There is no need to buy expensive ingredients for this recipe.
  • 2 kg green mango flesh, the seed definitely not included (Use any kind of very green mango but Common mangoes have always been the traditional mango to use because they are great for chutney making but not for eating, they have stringy flesh,  and can be obtained very cheaply in North Queensland and the Northern Territory as the trees grow wild.) Peel them, slice and chop the flesh, but not the seed, or pulse them in the food processor into small pieces, but not minced pieces.
  • 2 kg sugar (use the cheapest white sugar you can find at the supermarket, it makes no difference)
  • 250g raisins, chopped
  • 250g pitted dates,  chopped
  • 250g crystallised ginger, uncrystallised or naked, chopped. Fresh can also be used if you have enough.
  • 90g salt (taste it toward the end of cooking and add more if necessary)
  • 900ml brown (malt) vinegar ( the cheapest brown vinegar will do)
  • 5 birds eye chillies, chop them and remove the seeds (use gloves to do this)
  • 125g garlic cloves (chopped or pulsed in the food processor)
  • This recipe makes about 13 assorted sized jars. Have 15 ready just in case.
TIP: It is good to use some small jars as well, to give away to friends at Christmas, and throughout the year.

Sterilise your jars and lids: 

Start to sterilise your jars and lids before the cooking begins, by either washing them in the dishwasher, and then drying them off in the oven at 120 degrees, or hand wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them, and then heat them in the oven at 120 degrees for 20 minutes. It is good to time the final process of heating the jars and lids in the oven, to ensure that the bottles are still hot when the chutney is cooked and ready for bottling. The hot chutney needs to be ladled into hot jars using a wide funnel if possible. Remember to sterilise your funnel and ladle as well.

Let's cook:

Place all of your ingredients into a large heavy base stock pot. This recipe uses a manageable quantity of mango. If you double the amount of ingredients, you run the risk of burning the chutney and having to use a huge pot.



I use a long wooden spoon for stirring with. It is necessary to stir the mixture regularly to prevent the risk of burning on the base of the pot.

After about 45 minutes, the mixture will start to transform into a rich, caramel colour, and to thicken. This is when constant stirring is essential so that it doesn't thicken too much on the bottom of the pot and burn. Anytime after this you can start to test it to see if it is ready and is setting.

This is the same process as testing if jam is set. Test if it is ready, by putting a teaspoon full on a small saucer which you have already placed in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place it back in the freezer for a few minutes. If you can run your finger through it when it is cold and it leaves a gap then it has gelled and is ready for bottling. However at this point the colour and consistency of the chutney will be changing to a darker colour and thickening.

Neil is a great help with the ladling of the chutney into the jars, and cleaning up afterwards.

Our young neighbour from up the road dropped in for a chat and a lesson on how to make chutney, ha, ha. He's a bit camera shy though. He even liked the taste.


Bottle the chutney while still hot, and be careful. Use a large soup ladle, and a large necked funnel makes the process a lot easier.

Invert your full and lidded bottles for a few minutes, careful though because they are hot, and then stand them up the right way to cool.




You may hear some of the lids popping as they cool, which is a good sign that they are well sealed and the chutney will keep in the pantry for a few years.




The flavour and texture will develop beautifully during that time. An aged bottle of mango chutney is a precious commodity.

Another annual tradition is completed and it looks like a good batch. Every time I make this though, I learn something new, and now I cook it outside on the gas burner because the heat is better controlled than on my stove hotplates.

All of my jars are now labelled and stored in the pantry. Oops, I forgot to take a photo of them labelled.

Have you started any Christmas preparations yet or made some chutney? I know it is only November, but life can get busy from here on.

Jump to recipe here:

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I would enjoy hearing from you in the comments section at the bottom of the post

Best wishes

Pauline












Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Old Station Teahouse, Cape Hillsborough, Mackay



Morning tea, mangoes,a Tawny Frogmouth,  and much more, that's what we found this morning when we took a drive to the Old Station Teahouse near Ball Bay.  We live in  sub-tropical Mackay, so we have been to the Old Railway Station quite a few times before, particularly when we have visitors, as it is only a 30 to 40 minute drive to get there along the Northern Bruce Highway. The drive at this time of year is very scenic and very green following some nice rain. We drive through lush cane fields,  past rocky and rugged hills such as The Leap where there is a great pub by the way, turn right at the Cape Hillsborough turnoff. We continue past glistening lagoons and egrets, cane paddocks, more craggy rocks, cattle and beautiful scenery, follow our nose and we  arrive at the Teahouse.



This trip wasn't just all about the food, as strange as that sounds, as we only had coffee and shared a delicious slice of Orange cake, we are saving our calorie intake for the weekend, LOL. The Devonshire Teas looked enticing though. I am also hoping to indulge in one of their High Teas for a special occasion one day. However, there are  lots of mango trees on the property, and the owner generously offered us bags so that we could collect some of the green mangoes off the trees. In the North it is mango season, called Mango Madness by some, and on the weekend I hope to make my first batch of Mango Chutney, from green mangoes, so I suppose you could say the trip was also about food, which was serendipitous as I hadn't planned for that. After all if we don't pick some whilst they are green, the flying foxes will take them.

There are still plenty more mangoes left on the trees for any of my Mackay friends who might be reading this. I only collected a bucket full, as a batch of My Mango Chutney recipe requires 2kg of chopped green mango and makes about 10 jars so that is enough, and I had also collected a few during the week from some roadside trees. The locals are mango hunting for green mangoes, a lovely tradition in Northern Australia in early Summer. I didn't mean to just talk about mangoes to start with, however that shows how excited I am to have found some. By the way, we don't pick green Bowen mangoes for chutney, they are left to ripen for munching on.


Green Common Mangoes for the picking

A Tawny Frogmouth related to a Kookaburra, that we think had been injured and is in captivity until it recovers.





The Old Station Teahouse is full of history, with the original building dating back 110 years when it was the Old Station House selling train tickets. The history has been captured and detailed beautifully with lots of Old School bric a brac, vintage furnishings and also some very traditional plants in the gardens.









For my garden and plant loving friends, a wander thought the gardens finds many treasures, such as soft cane dendrobiums in flower, water lillies, and many lush tropical plants and climbers.



A golden soft cane Dendrobium in flower




Breadfruit
After some recent rain the gardens are springing back to life following a dry Winter. For visitors with pets, I think it is also dog friendly as a large outdoor deck area separate from the Station itself  brings a nice respite amongst the trees. Fairy lights, ancient trees from the Old Station days, orchids and bric a brac are all on show and to be enjoyed as we indulged in our morning tea. This is also a perfect venue for outdoor weddings, with  the beautiful surroundings and sizeable reception area, and the catering available through the Teahouse or the highly reputed NE foods in Mackay. It really ticks all the boxes for a versatile meeting place.







A splendid Oncidium Dancing Lady
And there's more. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Wood Fired Pizza Oven lights up and with a couple of cold drinks this is the place to be. We have indulged quite a few times before and the pizzas in this ambient outdoor setting are to be recommended.



For Northern visitors, a right turn off the highway towards Cape Hillsborough, and this must be the first stop. Then the Cape Hillsborough National Park beckons, with the beautiful beaches of Ball Bay, an early morning rendezvous with Kangaroos on the beach, coconuts lying on the beaches  presumably for the taking, numerous walking tracks and much more.



This place has won many awards


All of my thoughts and comments are independent and unconnected to the owners, and the food is always independently paid for. Check out their website or Facebook page for more details if you are interested in learning more.

Have an enjoyable weekend.

Best wishes

Pauline