Thursday, June 21, 2018

A quick batch of Aussie Damper Scones

When I am short of time, and need to use up  tubs of cream and sour cream and various vegetable bits and pieces my fallback position is to make some favourites, a batch of scones, a slice and perhaps a quiche. It's a public holiday here today, for People's Day at the Mackay Show. We have no inclination to go out into the mayhem of Public Holiday traffic even though it is a beautiful and sunny day. Must be getting older and wiser. So I'm doing some cooking.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pumpkin and Apricot Fruit Cake

Boiled fruit cakes are a great standby to have on hand in case of people dropping in for a cuppa without much warning or if you are busy and won't have time to do much cooking. They take a little while to make, however they are very simple to do. I think it is a good idea to have a boiled fruit cake recipe in your cooking repertoire when planning ahead for morning and afternoon teas, or homemade lunchbox treats etc.

This one is based on the pumpkin fruit cake my Mum used to make. I've increased the amount of  mixed fruit and added a cup of Apricot Nectar, a tip I saw on the back of a Sunbeam mixed fruit packet, resulting in a very moist cake which cuts beautifully. I buy the most economical mixed fruit available, preferably one with glace cherries in it though. A can of Apricot Nectar contains two cups of nectar so it is cost effective for me to make two cakes at the same time. I really enjoy baking a fruit cake in Winter, with the delicious and nostalgic aromas wafting through the house and the oven warming up the kitchen.


500g (16 oz.) dried Mixed Fruit ( or include 125g. (4 oz.) each of sultanas, chopped dates,and chopped raisins in the 500g.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125g (4 oz.) butter, chopped
1 cup Apricot Nectar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup Plain flour, sifted
1 cup Self Raising flour, sifted
1 cup well drained cooked pumpkin, mashed and cold (I cook this the day before and refrigerate)

Let's cook:

Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin

Place the mixed fruit, sugar, syrup, butter, and apricot nectar in a large saucepan.

Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes.This will plump up the fruit beautifully.

Remove saucepan from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda.  The mixture will froth up. Keep stirring gently until the frothing dies down. If it doesn't froth up, it means the bicarb of soda is probably stale and won't work properly.

Allow the mixture to cool.

At this stage preheat your oven to 160 degrees F.

When mixture has cooled, add the cold pumpkin and then the eggs and beat in gently until mixture is smooth.

Then add the flours and mix well to combine.

Place the mixture in the cake tin and bake for 90 minutes. Insert a skewer into the cake to check it is cooked. It will come out clean if the cake is cooked.

Original Pumpkin Fruit Cake recipe. Mum always used Fairy Cooking Margarine, much cheaper, and the results were still delicious.

Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin and Coconut Soup, a family favourite

Pumpkin soup with sourdough toast is always a winner with us, and this quick and easy recipe with the subtle flavours of curry powder and coconut milk, has been a longstanding family favourite in our home. I bought a whole Jap pumpkin at the Farmer's Market two weeks ago, what was I thinking, that's a lot of pumpkin, so I decided I had to work on using it all up this week. Pumpkins are plentiful and cheap right now and can help to stretch the budget. Using the simplest ingredients, and cooked quickly in the microwave oven, my pumpkin soup recipe can be prepared and ready to eat in under an hour. How's that for convenience during the week. It doesn't feel like cooking really when I make this.

This recipe uses a kilo of pumpkin, and you can stretch it as far as you need by adding more water and coconut milk if necessary. Or if you enjoy it thick and quite filling just leave the recipe as is. It also freezes well, so I'll be making another batch and freezing it.


1 kg Jap pumpkin (peeled and chopped into 3 cm pieces), also known as Kent pumpkin
2 cups of chicken stock, or 2 chicken stock cubes and 2 cups of water
2 large garlic cloves crushed
2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 can of organic coconut milk (400 ml)


Place first five ingredients into a 2 litre  casserole dish. Cook on High for 15-20  minutes in your microwave oven until all pieces of pumpkin are well cooked. You might need to take out the dish carefully,  give the pumpkin a stir to move the middle pieces to the outside, and pop it back in the oven for 5 another minutes. This depends on your pumpkin.

Remove dish when pumpkin is cooked,and allow the pumpkin to cool slightly.

Puree pumpkin with a stick blender. Stir in coconut milk and add seasoning to your taste. I used a lot of pepper. (Cream can be substituted.)

Cook on high for another 4 minutes in the microwave.

Garnish with fresh garlic chives or coriander, finely chopped.

I also baked a Pumpkin and Apricot Fruit Cake this morning, so I'll share that recipe with you very soon. Gosh, I still have half a pumpkin left though. At the very least, it will be some baked vegetables including pumpkin with Corned Silverside for dinner tonight. What would you do with all that pumpkin?

Warm wishes


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vietnamese Ruby Grapefruit Salad

It is warm enough here to still be enjoying salads and I can't tell you how much I love this one. This Winter we have been very fortunate that our friend Paul's ruby grapefruit tree is yielding a bumper crop and when he very generously gave us some I wanted to create a salad with a few of them.  I hope beautiful grapefruit are  available for my readers in the Northern Hemisphere this summer. We are also enjoying them fresh with brekkie as well. The wonderful thing about creating salads is that the ingredients can change depending on what is in season and what you have on hand, and with this oh so tasty salad dressing, all the of the ingredients come together to tantalise the taste buds.

This recipe  is based on one by Lands and Flavours, however mine is a little bit more Vietnamese I think, and that is the wonderful think about creating salads, the fusion of flavours that evolves.

A combination of ruby and white grapefruit can be used with the ruby grapefruit bringing so much colour and zing to this salad. Can you believe my mouth is watering even as I think about it?


2-3 cups of peeled and segmented pink grapefruit (around 2 to 3 grapefruits)
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
2 small tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges or  1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes halved
1 small cayenne chilli, sliced thinly (these aren't very hot)
1 large shallot or 2 spring onions, thinly sliced and fried
1/2 cup coriander leaves and tender stems, roughly torn or chopped
1/2  cup mint, roughly torn and chopped
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts OR roasted cashews

Variations to this salad:
  • Substitute sweet basil leaves for the mint and coriander if that is what you prefer or have on hand (not everyone likes coriander)
  •  Add a splash of coconut milk (about 2 tablespoons) to the dressing for a little more complexity
  • A combination of ruby and white grapefruit can be used
  • Add shredded chicken to the salad for a complete meal
  • Add some Chang's Fried noodles for extra crunch, the kids will love it
  • Add 3 tablespoons of fresh shredded coconut if you are lucky enough to have coconuts, or 2 tablespoons dried, unsweetened coconut
  • If you're not serving this with a green or red cabbage salad, or a wombok salad, add 2 cups of baby greens to the mix
Can you see how versatile this salad can be? I've made it a few times now and it is different but equally delicious each time.


2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
2 teaspoons sugar (use white, palm or brown sugar)
1 teaspoon srircha chilli sauce, available from the supermarket (secret ingredient)
Pinch of sea salt
Stir all of the ingredients and set aside until the sugar is dissolved.

  1. Into a large bowl place the segmented and peeled grapefruit, with membrane removed. (Mr. HRK did a great job of peeling, segmenting and removing the white membrane for me.)
  2.  Add the carrot, cucumber, tomato, chilli, fried shallot, coriander and mint. 
  3. Make the dressing.
  4. Whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice,lime zest, sugar, zriracha and salt in a small bowl. When the sugar is dissolved, pour this over the grapefruit and veggies. The dressing can be made well in advance.
  5. Carefully combine the dressing and the fruit and the vegetables, without breaking up the grapefruit. Adjust the seasoning to taste if necessary. 
  6. Transfer the salad to a serving plate and garnish liberally with the chopped peanuts.
  7. Serve immediately
To fry shallots, thinly slice the shallot and fry half  in 3 tablespoons of mild olive oil in a small saucepan. Remove to a sheet of paper towel when golden and crisp. Fry the second batch of the shallot. Try to keep the pieces separate so that they stay crisp.

This salad is delicious served with my Vietnamese Pulled Pork and a perhaps a Red Cabbage or Crispy Noodle Wombok Salad. (Good recipe for the latter available on the back of the Chang's Original Fried Noodle packet.)

I hope you can go outside and enjoy some sunshine today. I will be.

Warm wishes


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Winter Gardening in Tropical Mackay

Delicate Tropical orchids are bringing some bling to our garden at present. May and June seem to be the flowering season for Cattleya orchids and this beautiful Village Chief Armani is no exception. I bought this one two years ago from a local orchid grower, MnS Orchids, and it has surprised me with three beautiful blooms. It is a show stopper.

 This is a glimpse of Gardening Mackay during a tropical Winter, it's not quite Gardening Australia, however the weather has been so mild and beautiful that we have been spending quite a lot of time outdoors. Can this really be Winter? Minimum temperatures of 7 degrees last week, and maximums of 23 degrees had us reaching for our doonas at night however the days were perfect. It has warmed up slightly now, but it is still OK to be in the garden at midday. This is very different to our summer scenario when gardening and walking are over by 9am. 

I took time to wander around the garden with my camera and thought I would share with you some of the flowers and colorful plants I discovered which are the highlights at present. Some plants are dormant in Winter, however there are always flowers to be found somewhere in our garden. Whilst the individual flowers are nice to look at in photos, gardens are more than the sum of their parts and when appreciated as a whole, the colour, form, balance and structure of the garden come together to give each garden it's identity. This is a just a glimpse of our eclectic garden. Year round colour can be a challenge in gardens, however in the Tropics it's not difficult. I hope you enjoy a wander around our garden.

Meet Little Suzie, growing wild on the Golden Penda tree as she should be doing. She is a food loving and food lover's orchid, with the full name of Lc. Little Suzie x C. Chocolate Drop. I broke up this orchid at the end of last year and tied a couple of pieces to the tree as I was in a hurry to relocate it and she has flowered already. She is healthy and happy in her natural habitat. Orchids also respond very well to being fed finely chopped banana skins, believe it or not, and used coffee grinds. What's not to love.

Every tropical garden has a hibiscus tucked away somewhere. Ours is slightly dormant at present but I though this individual flower was quite spectacular.


This one is the first purple Zygocactus in flower. It is in a hanging basket framed by some Button Orchid, which is somewhat of an epiphyte.

I brought back a Medinilla sp Thailand (below) from Cairns in May 2016. The Friends of the Botanical Gardens in Cairns hold regular fund raising plant sales where plants can be purchased at very reasonable prices. This one has just started flowering and grows well in a hanging basket. I have another different species of Medinilla growing in the ground which is still to flower. My friend and gardening guru Ann, asked me to bring her back a couple of Medinillas during the 2016 Cairns visit, and that is how I discovered them.

Pure, white and simply special is the first flower of this Eurachist Lilly this Winter.

Eurachist Lilly
This deep pink flowered plant below, came as a cutting from my Mum in Rockhampton many years ago and is now a very large plant in the rainforest section of our garden. It often needs to be pruned back. I've forgotten it's name though. Can anyone help me with that?

Purple Salvia bringing beneficial insects including bees, and honeyeaters to our garden. A gift from Ann.

A holly Bougainvillea above

Red trumpets sparkling in the morning sunlight

A large leafed Caladium growing next to chillies. They are scattered throughout the garden bringing Winter colour.

A Delicate Cooktown Orchid, growing on a potted Fig Tree

Succulents in a bonsai pot

This is such a resilient pink gerbera, an old variety still seen in cottage gardens. Other gerberas are taking it easy during Winter, however this one keeps flowering.

Ground orchids need to grow in full sun which isn't a problem in our garden and they make a beautiful colorful border. The pink and white ones are also pretty and available now from most nurseries. We had a small yellow tomato bush growing as a weed through this front garden when I took the photo. We pulled it out though, as it was taking over and climbing up into the mandarin tree.
And it's back to my garden.

Until next time, happy gardening. Thanks everyone for visiting my blog. I would love to hear from you in the Comments box  if you have time.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Chocolate Chews, a Delicious Chocolate biscuit Slice

Do you ever need to bake something quickly on the weekend when you hear that friends are coming over later, and you have a lot going on? This is a chocolate biscuit slice to solve that problem. So quick and easy and delicious as well, and who doesn't love a chocolate slice with chocolate icing. If you have nuts on hand, crush a few and sprinkle them across the top while still warm, or sprinkle coconut over the top. If you are cutting down on sugar, I think that a sugar substitute would also work well in this recipe. 

This recipe is from one of my Mum's original recipe books which I was reading through just the other day, and I spotted this one. Now that I have baked it, I realise that she made it frequently and we always loved it. I never knew that she called it Chinese Chews though, but then I never asked. It was just Mum's Chocolate slice. I love the back story behind family recipes however I don't know it for this one unfortunately. I'm fairly sure though that a friend from Church gave it to her many years ago.

This recipe is also unlike some of the other Chinese Chews recipes which also include nuts and dates. I have no idea why this one is different, however the ingredients in this are simple and always on hand.  During very hot weather though, I suggest you keep it covered in the refrigerator, or it will lose it's nice chewy texture.  


1 cup Self Raising Flour
1 cup coconut
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup mixed dried fruit
125g Melted butter

Let's Cook:

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add the melted butter and the beaten egg and mix well.
Press onto a greased slice tray.
Cook until slightly brown, and firm to the touch. It will be coming away from the edge of the slice tin. This will mean the edges are nice and chewy.

Ice with Chocolate icing while hot using a warm knife dipped in hot water , and cut into squares.

This is the original hand written recipe from my Mum's recipe book, and as you can see she thought it was good, always a good sign LOL. I know that Mum often used Fairy margarine when cooking, now of course I generally use unsalted butter unless otherwise specified, however it was also a matter of economics back in the day. 1/4 lb of melted Butter or Marg. in the recipe instead of 125 g. is always a giveaway as to the era of the recipe.

Chocolate Icing:

I rarely measure ingredients when I make icing, so I made a special effort to do that this time:) With icing, it is often just about adding enough liquid or more icing sugar until the desired consistency is achieved. However the following ingredients are as close as possible to what I used this time.


1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons warm milk
Some warm water if needed


Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a medium sized bowl.
Add the melted butter and mix into the icing sugar.
Add the warm milk and mix in well until the chocolate icing mixture is glossy and just runny. If it is still stiff, add enough warm water, very slowly, until it is spreadable. The icing will firm up as it cools. It can then be smoothed onto the hot slice base with a knife dipped in hot water.

Chinese Chews just iced
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this recipe. Do you have any idea about the origin of the Chinese Chews biscuit recipe that you might have?

Have a relaxing Sunday everyone.
Bye for now


An original recipe by Pauline @ Happy Retirees Kitchen