Saturday, September 29, 2018

Couscous Salad with Fresh Mint, Coriander, Parsley and Feta cheese

I made some healthy Couscous to accompany a Beef Tagine I was slow cooking, and then as happens in my kitchen, I thought the couscous looked rather boring and bland so I started adding ingredients from what I had and this is what I ended up with. I now had colour on the plate as well as a nutritious side dish.This salad is delicious, versatile and the  simple dressing gives it a nice zing. A dressed grain salad will keep well for a few days in the refrigerator, whereas a dressed green salad is often limp and inedible the following day. Couscous  salad can stand alone for lunch, or is a marvellous accompaniment to a spicy or Middle Eastern style dinner. Other vegetables can be added as well, such as sliced zucchini or sweet corn, after all it is basically a salad. I remembered this idea from a recipe I found here quite a while ago.

I picked this bunch of gerberas this morning from my garden which bring sunshine into the house. They really need breaking up into smaller plants, but now I can't bear to do it whilst they are flowering. I hope they make you feel happy as well.

With Summer approaching here in the Southern Hemisphere I will be making this easy Couscous meal on a regular basis. In the Northern hemisphere though, it can also be a healthy addition to accompany hot meals.

Serves 4-6.
1 cup Wholemeal couscous
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup of finely chopped coriander
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped mint
1/2 red onion, chopped very finely
1/2 cucumber chopped very finely
1/2 red capsicum, chopped very finely
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons finely crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup, slightly warmed up so it is runny
Juice of 1 lemon and the zest
Good pinch of cumin.


Pour your couscous into a large heatproof bowl, add the boiling water and rest covered for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff up with a fork.

Toss the finely chopped vegetables through the couscous and then add the herbs,  mixing through lightly.

To make the dressing, add the ingredients including cumin to a small glass jar, screw on the lid and give the jar a good shake. You could also use a small whisk to mix it all together. This isn't a complicated dressing so shaking it up in the jar works fine. Add a little salt and pepper to taste if you think it needs it. If this is being served with spicy foods I don't think it will need it.

Toss the dressing through the couscous and add the pine nuts.

Add the crumbled feta if you are using that. 

This is now ready to serve or store it in the refrigerator.

This will keep well, covered in the refrigerator for 5 days but it won't last that long.

I hope you are having a fabulous weekend wherever you are. I did a lot of cooking on Friday, so we are eating mostly leftovers this weekend, which just keep improving in flavour, and it makes for a nice relaxing weekend. I'll be ready to start cooking again on Monday. Do you sometimes like to have a weekend off from cooking as well?

Best wishes,


Monday, September 24, 2018

Butterflies and Tropical Splendour in Springtime at Cairns Botanical Gardens, FNQ

A Butterfly on a Red Pentas
Surrounded by beautiful butterflies and exquisite tropical orchids, I thought I was in Heaven, however I was in the Orchid House and the Butterfly exhibit at the Cairns Botanical Gardens, in Far North Queensland. The gardens are impressive to say the least. Coastal Cairns like most of Australia, hasn't had any rain, and yet the gardens have retained their tropical Springtime splendour. The Orchid House was our first destination within the Gardens because of my passion for Tropical orchids, and when I could bring myself to leave, we followed the well constructed paths and discovered lots more.  Are you feeling like a visit to the Tropics? Dear Friends, I hope you enjoy some of the photos I took along the way.

This butterfly was undeterred by the amateur photographer taking a close up shot.

Butterflies love Pentas. It's as simple as that.

Red Pentas flowers, loved by the butterflies
This Cochlic Stema Adoratissimum plant from the Orchid House, pictured below was just stunning, so stunning that I took three photos of it. If you live in Cairns, you too can grow this one.

A Cochlic stema adoratissimum

Yellow orchids always make a beautiful show.

A delicate yellow Aggregatum orchid below.

This purple soft cane dendrobium hanging modestly from  a branch was so impressive. One of my aims in life is to grow one to this size. Just beautiful.

A glorious display of Phalaenopsis.

Beautiful Begonias

Most orchid lovers have a Vanda or two in their collection. The purple one looks like one of mine, which unfortunately isn't in flower.

This trailing Button orchid is growing as an epiphyte on a tree with the neighbouring Tillandsias. Then I find the tranquility of the waterlillies in a glistening oasis in the Orchid House.

On venturing out into the gardens we found these red Brazilian beauties.

ACANTHACEAE. Megaskepasma erythrochlamys. Brazilian Red Cloak
One of the benefits for me from visiting Botanical Gardens, apart from enjoying the surrounding beauty of the plants, is also being able to identify and name  plants in my own garden. The Brazilian Red Cloak grows well in the rainforest section of our garden, despite often needing a hard prune back. My Mum who always lived in Rockhampton where I grew up, gave me a cutting of this many years ago however she didn't know what it was called, and neither did we. It was a bit spindly in her back yard garden in Rocky, however it has thrived at our place in Mackay in the more tropical environment. Obviously it thrives in Cairns and makes quite a show. It would do any backyard in a tropical habitat proud. It's full name is: ACANTHACEAE. Megaskepasma erythrochlamys or Brazilian Red Cloak from Venezuela, South America.

It's time to give the fabulous Friends of the Cairns Botanical Gardens a plug.

We were there on a Thursday, and the Friends had an impressive table, full of plants for sale, just near the kiosk. These had come out of a nursery of plants propagated by the Friends themselves and were selling for $8.00 each. We bought a few for ourselves which we are thrilled with, and also bought a couple for Shannon and Dan's new garden in Cairns. If you fancy any of the plants that you see in the Gardens for your home garden, within reason of course,  the Friends welcome meeting you and will walk back to their nursery and most probably have the plant you want. This is such an economical way of buying new plants  such as the Brazilian Cloak, which often aren't available through the commercial nurseries. We left feeling like very happy shoppers with a box full of plants.


A massed variety of Bromeliads make quite a show, and whilst I couldn't take photos of all of them, this one stood out in the crowd. It is named Queen Mary which is rather nice and originates in Cost Rica. I presume it was discovered a long time ago. However  beware, these can become a very large plant.

I am always attracted to purple flowers in a garden, as are often the birds and the bees. The Petrea Mayensis beckoned me in to take a photo and reminded me of the beautiful Purple Salvia in my garden. This plant could be a must have for my garden one day if I can find a large enough spot for it to grow in.

I love these rich pink Medinillas, and different varieties are growing everywhere amongst the tropical foliage. I bought two varieties from the Cairns Friends during a previous visit to Cairns.

Pretty pink Torch Ginger


Ornamental Gingers are everywhere

Peace Lillies
White Peace Lillies or Spathophyllum lining a shaded pathway are quintessential to Botanical gardens and I love the serenity they project. These were all beautifully healthy and well cared for.

If I had stopped to take photos of all the beautiful plants in the Gardens I would still be there, and Mr. HRK long gone, ha, ha. However I left motivated, and enthused to revisit my garden at home and to just enjoy the pleasure that creating something special in the garden brings. I hoped you enjoyed some of the photos, and if you can, visit these glorious gardens at any time of the year,  you won't be disappointed.

The main reason for visiting Cairns was to celebrate our daughter's engagement to a wonderful young man, with an Engagement and Housewarming party. I've been alluding to that for a few weeks now. We had a wonderful time, and the food catering was a success. More about that later.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Party Pizzas and Lots of Rain

These Party Pizzas are so easy, that I feel a bit guilty writing them up as a recipe. Do you sometimes just feel like something really tasty like pizza, but don't feel like making your own dough or visiting the supermarket to buy ready made pizza bases, or spending the money to buy take away pizzas? These are the easiest bite sized pizzas I have ever made. They may be just bite sized, but they are BIG-sized flavours,with zero effort. In fact you will feel as if you have had a night off from cooking and everyone will be happy to pitch in and help. 

Great news for us is that we had 75 mm of rain last night, which is around 3 inches. It bucketed down and was windy and cold as well. Just like we expect a tropical wet season to be like. Showers were forecast, but we didn't expect this much rain. Hopefully the sugarcane farmers will be happy if they have harvested their cane and replanted. I wish though that we could send some of it off to the drought affected areas around Australia. Dylan, who is our 12 year old young neighbour from up the road came up for a chat after school just before, as he often does when Mum and Dad are working, and remarked how much he loves the rain. I agreed with him, but just reminded him that there are many children his age in Australia who have never experienced rain like that where they live. It's still overcast and it feels like there could be more showers on the way. Here's hoping, although the parsley is already looking waterlogged as is the pomegranate tree.

We are also happy that SBS is televising the U.S. Open Tennis tournament on TV now, and that our young Australian player, John Millman,who is from Brisbane and is a proud Queenslander, has made it to the quarter finals. I'm a bit sorry that it was Roger Federer he needed to beat to win, as Roger is also a favourite, but what a coup for John. He played the match of his life. So if you like watching the tennis, tune in tomorrow as he will be playing Djokovic (hope I spelled that correctly.) Fingers crossed for John Millman.

 Back to food. Pizzas are perfect on the weekend for brunch with a salad, or as an appetizer, or as a finger food idea for a party. They can also use up leftovers in the refrigerator as well, as the ingredients can be quite versatile. These are one of the items on the menu for our family party in 10 days time. 90 little pizzas can be made from a 10 pack Puff Pastry box. Very economical when catering. This recipe is for 18 pizzas which Mr. HRK and I enjoyed over a couple of days. Just increase the quantities as needed.

Ingredients for 18 mini pizzas

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry
2 cups grated tasty cheese
1 chopped red capsicum
1 cup classic pizza sauce (homemade or purchased)
1/2 cup chopped basil or oregano
1/2 cup roughly chopped black olives
Finely chopped bacon or salami to sprinkle over the top of the pizzas before baking

Thaw out two sheets of Puff Pastry. Cut each Puff pastry sheet into 9 squares. (For a larger quantity of pizzas, buy a 10 pack box of Puff Pastry and cut 9 squares from each sheet until each person has at least 3-4 pizzas)

Let's cook:

Grease two muffin trays very well and place a pizza square in each hole (18 for this recipe)
Throw the combined ingredients into a large bowl. Mix well together.
Brush tomato sauce over pastry bases.
3/4 fill pastry cases with ingredients and sprinkle with bacon or salami if desired.

Cook in a moderate oven for 20 minutes..

Now it's back to the kitchen to make some Chicken and vegetable soup for dinner. I'm going to enjoy this cool rainy weather while it lasts. It's moving on tomorrow apparently.

This is my Pizza recipe when I feel like making real pizza.

Bye for now,