Thursday, August 30, 2018

Spring Gardening in Tropical Mackay, and some Spring recipes

Welcome to Spring, let's celebrate. It's official, Spring starts today. However the birds, the bees, the McNees and the plants  have considered it Spring for the last few weeks, despite the occasional and very short, cold snap courtesy of southern climates meandering their way up North. Whilst overseas friends are bemoaning the end of their Summer, and I feel for you, we are embracing the ambience of Spring, not so much the heat of summer though, which is also just round the corner.You are very welcome to take a walk with me through our tropical garden to see what we can discover. First the ornamentals, then the edibles. 

This is a Tillandsia or Air Plant in a hanging basket, surrounded by the light green  Button orchid which erupts into small golden flowers which the butterflies love. Growing in the garden below are my Matchstick Bromeliads which need breaking up and relocating. Another job to do when they finish flowering. When they first bloom, these Broms are very pretty with purple tips resembling match heads. This is all hanging off the very tolerant Lychee tree, which isn't very interested in fruiting so it has become an excellent tree for hanging baskets.

It's been a busy few weeks including a lot of gardening, and a new gardening project which I will tell you about in the future. Seeds and seedlings are planted, now I have to be patient. I've been striking some more purple Salvia, some Cordylines, some rosemary (which for some reason didn't take so will try that again), and fertilising my orchids. Now is the time to prune Hibiscus if they are straggly.

Rosella seedlings
These are Rosella seedlings. Each year I keep some seeds from the Rosella harvest and replant them the following Spring. Normally I just plant them straight into the garden and a few germinate, however planting them in seed raising mix this year has yielded a 100% success rate. Lots of jam and tea making ahead for me, and some will be gifted to interested friends. I am all for spreading the love, aren't you?

Purple salvia which has struck from cuttings
My Phalaenopsis orchids are starting to bud and flower, and are looking healthy. The flowering ones weren't fertilised last time though as that isn't a good idea until the flowering finishes.

Phalaenopsis orchid
Below is my Yellow Soft cane Dendrobium which I am delighted is flowering this year. Last year it decided not to.  Who knows why?

 Of course I have been gradually Spring cleaning, enjoying some cooking which often involves using up fresh garden and seasonal surplus, as regular friends and readers of my blog will know. I also keep knitting a few dishcloths to keep my skills up.

I'll let the photos tell the story of our garden which is a constant source of enjoyment for Mr. HRK and me, and a good source of exercise as well, I am hoping so anyway.

 I call this one the Cat's Tail Plant, however it deserves more recognition than that as it is a bit of show stopper. This is Acalypha hispida, a flowering shrub in the Euphorbiaceae family (I won't try to remember that last name.) It is also called the Chenille Plant, the Fox Tail, and Red Hot Cat's Tail. It requires regular pruning to keep it under control in this part of the world but is worth it for the beautiful colour it brings to our front garden. I think it is one of those old fashioned plants which is often handed on by cuttings.

Red flowering bromeliad 
This next one is a bright red Pelargonium, not a geranium, although they are often called that now. My Mum first gave me a plant from her garden in Rockhampton many years ago and I keep a few plants in the garden as I dread losing it. They don't really like the humidity or the wet weather but I prune it right back, strike new cuttings, and I have managed to  keep it going.
Add caption
There is always a flower with Gerberas.

Happy Jade.

And now for the EDIBLE Plants.

I couldn't survive without a Rosemary bush, could you. I use it almost daily in my cooking. It thrives in full sun. This a fairly new plant so I am looking forward to the beautiful little purple flowers it produces.

Our lime tree is flourishing in a pot in the front garden, very Mediterranean..

The ubiquitous Lebanese eggplant. I am thinking my Eggplant Parmigiana for you, little ones.

My favourite Eggplant Antipasto recipe is this one, click on the recipe here.

These chillis are from a recent harvest and the bushes keep producing more and more. They are all from seeds that I have dried from previous crops and honestly the bushes seem to get better and stronger with each new generation of plants, and the chillis even sweeter, supporting the theory that they keep adapting to their environment.

I have been making lots of jars of Sweet Chilli Jam, and Thai Pickled chilli which are delicious and will boost our stockpile. I also finely slice them in scrambled egg, vegetable stir frys, soups and a lot of my dishes really. I am amazed at how expensive they are in the supermarket and they grow like weeds in this part of the world. Are you able to grow chillis where you live, I hope you can. They also provide a lot of beautiful red colour in the garden, as well as the culinary and health benefits.

My mint pot is doing well, and is delicious in so many recipes and drinks. Recipe for Mint, Ginger, Walnut and Cauliflower Rice

We are very excited that our Finger Lime is flowering for the first time, it is only a couple of years old. I couldn't capture a photo of the very small finger limes but we have a few about an inch long. It is growing in a large pot. As it is an Australian native rainforest tree, called Citrus Australasica, it is amongst other foliage and located under the Golden Penda tree so it is shaded during the heat of the day. Beware though, it is very thorny. I am so excited at the thought of harvesting some exotic Finger Limes to use in the kitchen over Summer.

Very hardy and pest resistant red Mignonette lettuces.

Watercress is doing well in a well mulched, covered raised garden. Delicious for sandwiches and salads. I'll try to do something really interesting with the watercress on one of my blog posts.

We have yellow nasturtiums in flower, and we have just planted some orange and red ones. (No photo unfortunately). Here is the recipe for a delicious cake which I made after our trip to Lord Howe Island last year and which is decorated with edible nasturtium flowers. I really recommend this cake.
Honey, Yoghurt and Chocolate cake recipe

Last but not least, the strawberries are finally starting to yield a good crop of fruit. This is Mr. HRK's garden, he loves his strawberries,  and they have been on notice for the last 12 months to produce fruit this year or they will be pulled out. Lots of attention, fertilisers, a bed of straw, and this is the best crop in 3 years. I doubt there will be enough for jam this year as they are eaten as soon as they are picked but that is the fun of it, don't you think?

Happy gardening to you all.

Best wishes


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Lovely Frying Pan Lemon Tart

This Lemon Tart is packed with delightful lemon citrus flavours and is luscious and light to eat, at the same time reminding me of a Lemon Delicious Dessert cheesecake, without the lemon sauce. The only equipment requirement is to have a 20 cm frying pan with an oven proof handle, and a good oven mit, which is needed to lift the pan from the oven. This is originally David Herbert's recipe, cooking columnist in the Saturday Weekend Australian which I found a long time ago, and it continues to be a favourite.

I have guest baker for this post, my Mahjong and tennis friend Lou, who made this tart for us. Mahjong is a regular Tuesday afternoon event for me. There are regularly 6 ladies in our Mahjong circle, and we take it in turns to host the Mahjong afternoon at our own homes, and also bake a cake or something sweet and delicious to have with coffee or tea, after we play a couple of games. Then we enthusiastically play some more games. Often our husbands are on hand to make us the coffee, especially Mr. HRK who roasts his own beans which are imported from quality overseas coffee farms, such as in Ethiopia. He can also manage some very nice coffee art which quite impresses the Mahjong ladies.

We really enjoy our Mahjong, but let's be honest, the cake and coffee is a highlight of the afternoon and a longstanding tradition. All of the ladies are good cake and dessert bakers.  This one is one of Lou's specialties, and whilst I have made it with success, I thought I would showcase this one as Lou's "masterpiece"  as I first enjoyed it at her place.  She works part-time still, and has been known to make this at 6.30 am in the morning, go to work, and then be home in time for Mahjong at 1pm in the afternoon. That's dedication for you. We aren't terribly competitive, in that we don't score each game with points, however we all like to win and enjoy having a good chat and a catch up as well.

Interestingly, we seem adept at talking and playing Mahjong at the same time. Mahjong is played with tiles, and originated in China during the Qing dynasty but has spread throughout the Western World during the 20th Century. In China, I believe it has always been mainly played by men, and they gamble, and play it as a very fast game. Each game is meant to be played with four people, however on the Tuesday we played at Lou's home and enjoyed this tart, only three of us could come hence the tile arrangement in the photo in the form of a triangle. The rules are slightly different for three players.


4 medium free-range eggs
125g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
pinch of salt
30g unsalted butter
50g ground almonds
125ml (1/2cup) single cream
50g flaked almonds
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
icing sugar for dusting

You will need a 20cm frying pan with an ovenproof handle.

Let's Cook:

Preheat the oven to 210 deg. C (fan-forced 190 deg. C). Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
Add the sugar, a pinch of salt, the ground almonds, cream, flaked almonds, lemon zest and juice, beating well to combine.

Melt the butter in a 20cm frying pan with an ovenproof handle, over a low heat.

When the foam subsides and it is sizzling nicely, add the egg mixture, tilting the pan so it spreads evenly.

Cook over a low heat until the edges begin to set, then transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

It should be golden brown, so if necessary pop the pan under the grill for a moment or two longer.

Leave to cool, then transfer to a serving plate using a palette knife.

Dust with icing sugar before serving and accompany with ice cream or yoghurt.

Serves 6-8.

David Herbert suggests that If you are having this for dessert, serve with a late harvest sweet wine such as a riesling. Very nice. Dan Murphys will help you out there and they are often very reasonably priced in the discount bin.

I also recently read a great book called A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester, an Australian historical fiction author, where Evie the heroine, in 1920's New York, often enjoyed a game of Mahjong with her young friends. It's been a little while since I read it, however I was surprised and thrilled to read the descriptions of some of the hands they played similar to the ones we now play as well, such as "Four Blessings Hovering Over the Door", and a Mahjong Special Hand which is always played in one suit with Pungs and Chows plus Winds and Dragons. If I ever find a traditional and old Mahjong set, which were often made from bone and bamboo I would love to buy it, however for now I will play with my modern set which does the same job.

Enjoy your weekend, and I will catch up with you next week.

Bye for now


Monday, August 20, 2018

Slow Cooker Chicken and Date Tagine

Do you want a quick, slow cooked meal for a tasty, aromatic and easy mid-week family dinner? This one only requires browning off the chicken pieces, and then all the ingredients are placed in the slow-cooker bowl for 6 hours and dinner is ready when you arrive home. I've served this with wholemeal couscous which is also very easy to prepare. As people eat with their eyes first, if you have an earthenware Tagine dish by all means serve it up in that if you really want to impress, and leftovers improve in flavour for the next day.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Homemade Passionfruit Curd, it's all about Passionfruit today

Delicious freshly picked passionfruit from the vine

It's passionfruit season, and I am finding that at this time of the year there is a surplus of wonderful fresh produce needing to be preserved for future use.  Only so much can be given away. Today I decided to use up some fragrant, purple passionfruit and how better to do it  than by making Passionfruit Curd or Passionfruit Butter as my Mum's generation called it, and I still often do as well.

Go straight to my original Passionfruit Curd/Butter recipe here if you like.

Passionfruit is a subtropical fruit native to South America, specifically from Southern Brazil through Paraguay to Northern Argentina. However the Purple Passionfruit was growing well in coastal areas of Queensland before 1900. So many back yards in North Queensland have at least one passionfruit vine growing, scrambling up trees or over pergolas. It's a rush to pick them before the possums eat them, although many drop to the ground making harvesting very easy.

Here a few photos from my passionfruit cooking spree and I realised that it is almost four years to the day that I made a batch of this. It's a bumper passionfruit season. I've made Lemon Curd since though. Here is my Lemon Curd recipe if you have an excess of lemons. I used some very sweet passionfruit from our friend's vine for this batch of Passionfruit curd.

Our two passionfruit vines are fruiting however unfortunately the fruit is still quite sour. Mr. HRK has been feeding them with  minerals such as  Iron Chelate, Potassium Permanganate (Condy's Crystals), some Fish emulsion,  and lots of love. However I was reading today that they love a lot of iron, and that feeding it leftover liver or an ox heart around the root base even will work. That sounds very carnivorous to me, and perhaps I should feed it a little liver and see if that does the trick. I'm worried what else the liver will attract to the garden though LOL. We don't need any wild animals picking up the scent and prowling  around our backyard at night. Dear Friends, have you tried anything different like this in your gardens? This is our first Passionfruit crop on these vines, so perhaps the next one will be sweeter.

Ingredients measured out and ready to cook
Let's Cook

This recipe makes 475 ml and is based on the wonderful Maggie Beer's recipe.


10 large passionfruit
3 Free Range eggs
200g castor sugar
30 g butter
1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice (I used Bush lemons)


Cut the passionfruit in half with a sharp, serrated knife and take out the pulp.
Beat the eggs well. Tip the eggs into a stainless steel saucepan, and add the passionfruit pulp, sugar, chopped butter and lemon juice.

Stir ingredients over a low heat until mixture comes to the boil, then keep at a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to ensure it doesn't curdle or burn or reduce down too much.

The  mixture will thicken by the end of this cooking time, but will set properly and reach the required consistency when it cools.

Ladle the hot passionfruit butter  into clean, warm sterilised jars and seal.
When opened, store the jars in the refrigerator.

Passionfruit curd or Lemon curd is absolutely delicious served in small pastry tartlets, as a filling for sponge cakes, or even as a topping for pavlova. Or just eaten on toast for breakfast.

 I hope I have inspired you to make a batch, you will be very happy that you did.

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies, yum. It's difficult to capture in a photo just how delicious these are. You might also notice that I have joined the 21st century and am calling them cookies, not biscuits. This is a large mixture making 50, and just as well, because it is hard to stop at eating one or two of these. The are very crisp on the outside, with a firm and sweet biscuit centre, and studded with Chocolate Chips.

I think this was originally a Nestle recipe as it used to be on the Nestle Condensed Milk can label,  however any brand will do for this recipe. A neighbour friend who caters frequently for parties and functions told me about this recipe and was surprised that I didn't already know of it. Perhaps I am the only one that doesn't. I am trying a few different cooking ideas at the moment in  preparation for a family party in September. I'll need to make another batch, and freeze them in advance so that I have about 120 for the Tea and Coffee station. I'm catering for mostly a young crowd so that means hungry, right?

Anyway I think that the next batch I bake should be even better than this one, so I am really happy  that in addition to cake there will be plenty of cookies. 


Makes 48-50 cookies
Grease 3 large biscuit trays, lightly grease and line with parchment
Turn on oven to 180 deg.C or 160 deg. C Fan Forced. (My oven isn't a very hot oven, and they cooked well at 170 deg.C FF)
180 g Salted Butter
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
1/395g tin of Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 1/2 cups (225g) SR Flour or 1 1/2 cups Plain Flour sifted with 3 teaspoons fresh Baking Powder
250g Dark Choc Bits
(Add 1/2 cup (95g) White Choc bits  for extra pizzazz but not necessary)

Cream butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until creamy.
Beat in Sweetened Condensed Milk on a low speed.

By hand using a large spoon, add the flour and Dark Choc Bits and mix well.
Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls, place on prepared trays, leaving plenty of room to spread.

Press each one gently with a fork, lightly dipped in flour. Sprinkle each one with a little Demerara sugar for a subtle night time sparkle.

Cool cookies on biscuit trays for 10 minutes until firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and crisp up.

Store in an airtight container.

These cookies also freeze extremely well.  Freeze in layers using parchment  between layers in a freezer proof container. This works really well if you want to have some on hand for surprise visitors or if planning ahead for a party, as I am. None of the cookie crispness is lost when prefreezing.

I had forgotten how satisfying it is to bake a batch of biscuits, oops cookies. These days I generally bake cakes and these were baked in a jiffy.

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy baking


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Zucchini, Corn and Bacon Slice Rejigged

I'm having one of those days when the comfort and ease of cooking a favourite and reliable dish seems to be what is called for. Rejigging a favourite family recipe where I can also use up some of the bits and pieces in the refrigerator is a bonus. There are times when we can use our imagination and be frugal at the same time. A savoury slice, savoury muffins, quiches, frittatas or any egg based dish are perfect for using up vegetables found lurking in the vegetable crisper. I often also throw a lot of these into soups.

Zucchini and bacon slice is a standard meal in a lot of households and has been since the 1980's. When I gave my Mum the recipe many years ago,  she loved it and took it along to every  function which required a plate to be taken. It still makes for good finger food at a party.  So I've rejigged it, and added a few ingredients to make it even more interesting and tasty. As a bonus, half of it is in the freezer for another night when cooking needs to be simple. We all have those nights, don't we?

Mr. HRK also really enjoys it with a tasty and spicy tomato relish for brunch. Here's a link to my tomato relish recipe.

We are having another late  cold snap here in Mackay, 7 degrees this morning,  so I am enjoying using my oven while it is still pleasant to  warm up the kitchen during the day.


375g grated zucchini
3 rashers of bacon finely chopped, fat removed
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped (from ,my garden)
2 mild red chillies, finely chopped (I think mine are Cayenne chillies)
1 finely chopped onion
1 cup very tasty grated cheese
1/2 cup milk or oil (I used milk this time)
5 eggs
2/3 cup corn kernels
1 cup Self Raising Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper or to taste


Grease and line with baking paper a 20cm by 30cm rectangular baking tray (lamington tray). Set your oven to moderate.
Grate zucchini, I use my food processor, and allow to rest on kitchen paper for 10 minutes until some liquid has drained out.
Lightly saute chopped bacon and onion until cooked.
Whisk eggs and milk together in a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Pour into the lined baking tray and cook in a moderate oven for 40 minutes.

Some other eggy dishes.
Here's my original Zucchini Slice recipe, very quick and easy.
A delicious Mediterranean Frittata recipe.

Bon appetit

Written by Pauline

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Parsley Hummus, Gloriously Green and Delicious.

 Our Parsley is growing very well in the raised garden at the moment, however once the humidity and then the rain arrives, it will probably die off as it has in previous years. So I am "making hay whilst the sun shines", or parsley hummus whilst the parsley thrives.  In fact I may have over planted, just slightly, (ha, ha) with 8 thriving plants, so some of them need to go to make room for other edible  plants. I love to have parsley growing. It is the essential healthy Mediterranean herb, is an excellent source of Vitamin A, C and K and a good source of iron and folate. It finds its way into a lot of my cooking. How about you? It also grows well in large pots in full sun.

I know my last post was also about hummus, and I am loving making it experimenting with different herbs and vegetables. I am on a mission as our wonderful daughter has recently become engaged to be married, and so I am gradually making a few dishes in preparation for a party in September. This parsley hummus is destined for the freezer and the party. By then I may have also made beetroot and pumpkin hummus. The different coloured hummus should look attractive as well as making a great starter, don't you think?

In the same garden as the parsley the spinach is also growing very well.  Small basil seedlings are starting to germinate from seeds from my seed bank which I planted a couple of weeks ago so I should have lots of summer basil this year for pesto and pasta dishes.

 This parsley hummus will use up some of the parsley for now, in a most delicious way.

To prepare the parsley for my hummus this morning, I placed the parsley on newspaper as it was straight out of the ground.  I made a cup of tea, sat down and relaxed,  pulled the leaves from the parsley and placed them in a bowl for measuring. This is yesterday's newspaper, so I enjoyed having a read as I removed the leaves. The parsley stems can be quite tough so they went into the compost heap. Such a relaxing and rewarding Sunday morning activity.


2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 cups well cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tblsp. good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 tblsp. reserved chickpea liquid or water
1 1/2 cup parsley, packed down
1/2 tblsp. cummin powder
1 tbsp. tahini
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to taste


Place garlic in the food processor and process until chopped.
Add the chickpeas and grind them up before adding other ingredients.
Add the liquid ingredients and process until well mixed together.
Add the parsley and the remainder of the ingredients.
Add extra equal quantities of olive oil and water  very slowly through the chute until the a nice spreadable consistency is achieved. It will start to flow around the bowl when it is the right consistency. Chickpeas I have cooked myself as explained in my previous post often require more additional liquid to be added.

Makes approximately 2 cups of delicious hummus.

Well my friends I hope your week ahead is happy, rewarding and productive

Best wishes


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Classic Chickpea Hummus from Scratch

Hummus is a wholesome snack made from cooked chickpeas, mashed up and mixed with lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and some cumin. Because of the density of the protein rich chickpeas I make hummus in small batches as it mashes up a lot better. I cook up a whole packet of chickpeas after soaking them overnight in a large bowl filled with water. Bring a large saucepan of water containing the chickpeas to the boil, then simmer them until they are tender, for about an hour,  or until a couple of shells are just starting to separate from the chickpea. Drain and reserve the water they were boiled in.

Measure out 2 cups of cooked chickpeas, and make a batch of hummus, freezing it in a small container.  Keep making batches until the all the chickpeas are used up. It will also keep for a week in a sealed container in the frig. I always reserve some cooked chickpeas and keep them in the refrigerator to have in salads or to use in frittatas, tagines, stews, Indian curries and soups. I try to keep a few batches in my freezer on reserve, as then I always have a quick and nutritious dip on hand.


2 cups well-cooked chickpeas, plus liquid they are cooked in (7 tablespoons of liquid should be enough) (reserve a few cooked chickpeas for garnish)
4 tsp. tahini
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lemon or around 4 tablespoons
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Sweet paprika for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Put the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, cumin, lemon juice and half the chickpea cooking liquid in the blender and begin to blend it. When the chickpeas are broken down, add the olive oil in a steady stream down the chute and then add the rest of the chickpea liquid until you have a good consistency.

Add a little salt and freshly ground pepper and taste it to see if it is to your liking. Sometimes I add a little extra lemon juice for extra flavour.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and chopped parsley.

Hummus is always delicious when served with a cheese platter and nibblies. I often take it with crackers when we visit friends to enjoy with a drink and when they realise it is homemade from scratch they are generally very appreciative, and it tastes really good. In fact it seems to improve in flavour after it sits in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

If you are a bit time poor, hummus made from canned chickpeas will still taste good. It is good nutritious food.

Best wishes