Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tasty Turkish-Style Tabbouleh

I made this Tabbouleh with quinoa as that is what I had on hand and it needed to be used, however wholemeal  couscous works just as beautifully. Quinoa is a delicious alternative. It's the time for salads here in the tropics, but then salads are popular and healthy anywhere and at anytime of the year aren't they? This salad choice came about as our Lebanese cucumbers have started bearing cucumbers (our first attempt at these), the mint and parsley are going gangbusters, and Mr. HRK with secateurs in hand, drastically pruned back the parsley so rather than let it go to waste, Tabbouleh came to mind. 

I try to base my meal choices on what we have growing or what is already in the pantry, without needing regular excursions to the supermarket for one or two items.

Home grown Lebanese cucumbers

Cooking cakes and sweets is a different matter. There are some items that just need to be purchased when I run out of them, as a cake recipe is pretty exacting.


1/2 cup rinsed quinoa (tri-colour for impact if you like), or wholemeal couscous
150 ml chicken stock for extra flavour, (just water will also work well)
1 Lebanese cucumber, deseeded and diced
3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1 cm dice (I used 4 Roma tomatoes)
3 spring onions, green ends only, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, or about 1/2 bunch, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (not the stuff out of the bottle)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Add a crushed garlic clove if you like, but not necessary
*A large avocado cut into 1 cm dice can replace the cucumber


If using quinoa:-
Place the stock in a small saucepan, add the quinoa and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender to taste. Remove from the heat,and stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and leave it to cool.

If using couscous:- Place the stock in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add the stock to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or something plastic free (preferably), to store the heat, and stand for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff it up and to separate the grains. Season it slightly to your taste, and set it aside until cool.

Gather the bunch of parsley, form into a tight bundle in your hand and finely shred the leaves with a sharp knife.

Do the same thing with the mint leaves.

My coriander in our raised garden is still growing well, so a little bit of that went into the salad as well.

Add the cooled grain, quinoa or couscous to the rest of the ingredients, and mix through gently.

Making The dressing:

In a smallish bowl, gradually whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice and garlic (if using) until it starts to thicken slightly and emulsifies. Stir the dressing through the tabbouleh ingredients and season with a little salt and ground black pepper if it needs it. A little salt will really develop the flavours.

Serving options:
For an easy meal, delicious just with a boiled egg
For a more substantial and complete meal if entertaining, serve with hummus, pitta bread and sliced lamb or lamb cutlets

On a nutritional note, eating salads like tabbouleh is a healthy alternative, as the herbs, parsley, and mint are rich in sources of Vitamin K and C, some beta-carotene, folate and flavonoids.  I feel better already.......

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count

And now for some twitching. We've been participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count this past week.  I think today is the last day and it's been great fun. It's too hard for me to take photos of the birds at the same time as I am entering the data into the phone app, however we have submitted 8 Checklists, Sighted 22 species, and sighted 204 birds just in our suburban backyard. So Mr. HRK and I take our chairs to the courtyard late in the afternoon, settle in with a cup of coffee and wait for the birds to start their afternoon pilgrimage to the Bird bath and then back to the Golden Penda tree and the Paperbark tree. We've had a couple of challenges differentiating between species, such as the female Australasian Figged and the female Blue-faced Honeyeater but I think we have given fairly accurate statistics of what we have seen which will paint a picture of the birds in our area for Bird Life Australia.

Highlights for us were: 23 Australasian Figbirds, 1 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike,1 Nankeen Kestrel, 1 Whiskered Bulbul, 1 Rufous Fantail, 4 Torresian Imperial-Pigeons and 62 Rainbow Lorikeets. Except for the Lorikeets, these are ones we don't see very often.

A light lunch at home, Tabbouleh, stuffed capsicum, and a boiled egg, the lettuce is coming:)

Have a happy week my friends and keep smiling,

Bye for now,


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Stuffed Bowen Bull Nose Capsicums {vegetarian}

Bull Nose Capsicums and Bull Nose Bell Peppers are one and the same thing. You probably know about the famous North Queensland Bowen mangoes which will be ready for harvest soon, but have you heard of the Bull Nose capsicums which Bowen is also famous for, as well as for the beautiful Bowen tomatoes. At this time of year Bowen is a profitable food bowl. I immediately thought of stuffing these capsicums when I first saw them, as they lend themselves to grilling, roasting and stuffing, or just chopped fresh for salads. Search your pantry stash of staple ingredients and it is amazing what you find. That is how this recipe came about.

Go straight to recipe here

My lovely foodie friend Julie, arrived on the weekend from Bowen with a farm fresh bag of Bull Nose capsicums, a large eggplant, and some Roma tomatoes, all from the farm shop just past Sandy Gully,  North of Bowen on the Bruce Highway. She is such a treasure. Living in Bowen has it's rewards for her and for me.

I had all of these ingredients on hand and so this recipe just evolved. White beans could be substituted for the Black beans, and the corn could be left out if necessary although it brings colour, natural sweetness and texture. I also enjoy the earthy flavours that the black beans bring to the taste buds, not to mention the fibre for the gut. I love the flavour of eggplant in this kind of vegetarian dish, and as I had a whole and very fresh globe eggplant, I sliced it, salted it, and baked it with a drizzle of olive oil and added some of it in small pieces to this mix. Mr. HRK isn't a huge fan of eggplant, and he's sticking to that story. So I have gone gently this time to test his reaction and he didn't even notice the filling contained some eggplant. Adding eggplant or not is up to you with this recipe, an optional extra. If we are thoughtful and curious with our cooking, the right flavours will evolve. Believe me my friends, this is a very tasty and pushy  recipe. If you like Mexican food, you will love these.

Bull Nose Capsicums, fresh, sweet and crispy
Now, for a little background story about these mysterious, and heritage Bull Nose Capsicums, as I know you must be fascinated by the name. They were named after their shape. They are smooth skinned and thin walled, and the skin tapers down to multiple lobes at the base, or a "bull nose". I hope you can see that in the photos below. Who ever named them had a great imagination, don't you think? Anyway, apparently they were one of the first crops grown by the American President, Thomas Jefferson at his Virginia home of Monticello as early as 1812 and seeds are still sown and sold there, or so I read. They would have been known as Bull Nose Bell Peppers and no doubt they were pickled by many of the settlers back then as well, however they looked different to the Bull Nose Peppers of today. According to the literature and photos available about them, back then they looked more like our common capsicum, only smaller.

Bell peppers called Bull Nose were definitely known to American gardeners in the 18th century. Paintings by artists such as Raphaelle Peale, in 1814, show that the pods back then were much smaller than they are today. Everything seems to have become bigger through time.

Mrs. Emlen's Pickled Mangoes is an inspiring historical read if you are interested in the history of food and language as I am. Apparently, many Americans still call Bell Peppers "mangoes", because to mango it meant to stuff and pickle it with a mixture of spices and shredded cabbage. I would be interested to hear from any American friends if this is still actually the case. Bell Peppers were also used in mango pickles, a recipe which traces back to their origin in India. However in India they are called capsicums.

Back then the Bull Nose Bell peppers may have been much hotter, according to recipes from the Virginia Housewife (1838:168) warning to be careful when removing the seeds and membranes. I wonder if she was really talking about the same Bell Peppers though as some articles say they were always sweet. This sounds like our chilli heat warnings today. It's fascinating to think that they are now grown so successfully here in North Queensland, where the hot dry conditions suit them, as the climate of India did.

I have some Bull Nose capsicums growing, my first crop, taken from seeds I dried and planted. We bought these capsicums from a roadside stall last year at Merinda, just North of Bowen, and to be truthful I didn't know what they were then but loved the flavour and the shape. The seeds have propagated very well into healthy plants, and whilst the fruit is still green and only half the size it might be, I am excited about being able to pick my own Bull Noses during this coming Summer. So many seedlings came up, exceeding my expectations, that I stuck a couple in my Kaffir Lime pot, and they are also doing very well. That's heritage quality for you I suppose.

Bull nose capsicums growing in our Kaffir Lime pot.

Bull nose capsicums growing in the garden with chillies
Let's Cook:
Serves 4

8 Bull Nose capsicums or normal red capsicums
Salt and pepper
1 400g can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 400g can corn kernels, drained (fresh would be even better)
4 thick slices of cooked eggplant, chopped finely (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 spring onions, finely sliced for garnish


I removed the seeds and membranes from the Capsicums, and they are currently drying out on the sunny windowsill in my laundry. They will keep in my seed bank in a zip lock bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, until I need to plant some for next summer.

The Filling:

In a large fry pan over a medium heat add a little olive oil, and add the the tomatoes, black beans, corn, eggplant, cumin, cayenne pepper and brown rice.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes. Have a taste to make sure it has the level of flavour that you like. Keep stirring the mixture to ensure it doesn't stick to the base of the pan, as the moisture will steam off and the mixture will bind together. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Spoon the bean and rice stuffing into the Bull Nose capsicums to fill, add the tops as lids. These types of capsicums aren't as easy to fill as the normal ones and I just pushed the mixture down into the cavity with a teaspoon and could feel the heat from the mixture as it found the bottom of the cavity.

These babies are ready for the oven
Add capsicums to a greased baking tray or one lined with baking paper, cover the tray with alfoil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and finely sliced spring onions to serve.  If you are using normal capsicum for this recipe, you might need to take a fine slice off the base so that they sit nice and flat on the plate.

Go straight to recipe here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes,


Friday, October 19, 2018

Chinese Chicken Traybake with a Tropical Twist

This Chinese Chicken Sauce works well with baked chicken wings, chicken thigh cutlets or breasts, or a whole baked chicken. I generally bake the meat as per usual until half cooked, pour off most of the fat and then cover with the sauce and cook until the meat is cooked and the sauce has glazed.  It is important to watch it towards the end of the cooking time so that the sauce doesn't burn. This was a firm family favourite when the children lived at home and is still on the holiday menu repertoire.

 I hadn't cooked my Chinese Chicken recipe for a long time, and then our daughter called me the other day to tell me she had cooked it for her fiance, and he loved it.  She always enjoyed it when I made it at home. So here it is, and I'm so pleased I revived it from the exact original recipe. I've called it a traybake as that is what it is, however in the 90's we just called it Chinese Chicken. So easy and so tasty.

The ingredients seem simple I know, but if the balance is wrong it just doesn't taste right. If you feel like cooking something tasty and easy to try this weekend, that won't break the budget, this would be perfect.


Serves 4

8 chicken thigh cutlets
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 tablespoons white wine or Chinese wine
1 tablespoon Rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or crushed fresh garlic to taste (I like a few cloves)
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or 1 sliced large red chilli
2 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon mango chutney (I use my home made batch, the Tropical influence)


Preheat the oven to moderate.

Place the chicken cutlets in a baking dish, skin side up and pour enough water into the dish to cover the base.

Bake the chicken cutlets for about 20 minutes or lightly browned. A lot of the fat should have been cooked out of the chicken and be in the base of the pan, and the water evaporated. the chicken skin will be lightly coloured. The chicken should only be half cooked.

Pour most (3/4) of the fat out of the dish.

Pour the chicken marinade over the chicken covering each piece well and place back in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the baking dish from the oven and baste the chicken with the sauce. The sauce will have thickened and will coat the chicken nicely.

This isn't really burnt, looks darker in the photo and was delicious
Place back in the oven, and if your oven is a hot oven reduce the temperature to 170 degrees, and be careful that the chicken doesn't burn, although the crispy bits in the dish and on the chicken are delicious.

Serve with boiled rice and Asian stir fried vegetables or even a fresh Wombok salad.

It's hard to believe it's Friday already. It's been a week of gardening and spring cleaning, a little rain, and now we have a couple of guys in our courtyard digging a hole for a large white post to be installed which will support a shade sail. That will be a nice addition for our Tropical Summer.

Thanks for dropping by everyone and I hope you all enjoy a relaxing weekend.


Chinese Chicken Traybake is an original recipe by Pauline @ happyretireeskitchen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Dear friends, beware, these are super healthy, in fact there is no sugar to be found in them, except of course in the fresh blueberries and bananas, oh and a little in the yoghurt. These are probably the kind of muffins you would find on the menu in a Healthy cafe in trendy Byron Bay (New South Wales) or Cairns (Queensland) but there they would be served with a drizzle of maple syrup or exotic homemade ice cream beside them.

 I don't count calories as such,  but it is Mr. HRK's birthday this weekend, which means some eating out and decadent treats, so this week we are pacing ourselves in anticipation. Do you do that, if not, I assure you it comes with the advancement of maturity, ha, ha. The weird thing is that when I am cutting back on sugar which I normally don't have a lot of anyway, my body just yearns for it, and these are perfect as they can be pulsed in the food processor in a jiffy, and cooked in 15 minutes. We ate these for brunch, however they are just as delicious for breakfast with coffee, or just for a snack in between meals. I found this recipe in the "CSIRO Healthy Gut" book and it intrigued me, as this isn't the way I normally cook, but these are a refreshing change, with all very healthy ingredients,  and a cinch to make.

Let's cook:

Preheat the oven to 200 deg. C. or 180 deg. C (fan-forced). I cooked mine in well greased silicon muffin trays, however paper lined muffin cases in a 12 hole muffin tray is a practical and attractive option.


Makes 12

100 g natural Greek style yoghurt, lactose free if you must
2/3 cup (60g) raw rolled oats, not the fast cooking variety
2 bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
125 g punnet fresh blueberries
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Finely grated zest of 1 orange, preferably home grown but otherwise well washed


Place all of the ingredients except the blueberries, in the bowl of your food processor and pulse to just blend. The mixture will still be fairly coarse.

Fold the blueberries in gently.

Spoon the batter evenly into the paper cases, which will just half fill them, then bake for 15 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean. They need to be well cooked on top and set on the bottom.

Cool them in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.  They will need to be left in a silicon tray for at least 10 minutes, as the base will need to cool down and firm up because of the amount of fruit in the muffin. Carefully ease out from the muffin hole and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt on the side, and a very light dusting of icing sugar if you wish. They should also keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days for snacking on.

Eat these, enjoy and feel healthy and guilt free.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Delectable Lime Syrup Cake

Aren't you just loving that limes are in season? I picked the limes for this cake fresh from my potted lime tree. I must tell you, our young mate Dylan who lives two doors up, came to visit just before, seemed a bit tired after a full week at school, he's in Grade 7, and obviously needed some sugar because he asked me, very politely, "Pauline have you baked anything nice this week?"...... I generally have some thing baked I can give him to try, he's a very generous critic, but unfortunately this time the pantry and the freezer were bare of sweet things.

However I can't have him thinking I have slackened off,  so I mentioned that I had hosted Mahjong again on Tuesday and I baked a pretty delicious Lime Syrup and coconut cake, thinking there would be quite a few slices left over, as only four ladies were available for Mahjong.

However Mr. HRK had other ideas, as he was going out later in the afternoon and needed to take some afternoon tea.  So the rest of the cake  went with him. Well Dylan's handsome little face dropped when I told him this, he missed out, however Mr. HRK's music friends loved the cake and now they all want the recipe. I think I'll have to make another one this weekend so that Dylan can have some, and I can have a second slice. Dylan's family travelled south for a wedding last weekend, and as a consequence I think his Mum may have put them all on a diet this last week after an indulgent weekend, as she is very health conscious, which is a good thing. Penny loves to cook though so Dylan is very well fed.

Let's Cook: 



125g butter, chopped
3 eggs, beaten at room temperature
3/4 cup milk at room temperature
1 1/2 cups self raising flour, sifted
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 1/4 cups desiccated coconut

Delectable Lime syrup ingredients:

3 limes (1/2 cup lime juice)
Grated lime rind
1/2 cup white sugar

Let's cook:
Preheat oven to 180 deg. C. Lightly grease and line a 6cm deep, 22cm (base) springform cake pan with baking paper.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat or heat uncovered in the microwave on MEDIUM (50%) for 1 to 2 minutes until almost melted. Transfer to a bowl and stand for 1 minute to slightly cool. Add eggs and milk. Stir until combined.

Combine sifted flour, sugar, and coconut in a bowl. Add milk and egg mixture. Stir to combine. Spread mixture into pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Lime Syrup: 
Combine 1/2 cup lime juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring gently to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until syrupy and lightly coating the spoon. Stir in grated lime rind.

Pour hot lime syrup over hot cake. Allow cake to cool before releasing the sides of the cake pan. For decoration I then add some green zest to the top of the cake for a little freshness. Cut into slices and serve with fresh yoghurt.

 Also, I just have to say thanks to those friends who left a comment on my blog about the Beetroot Hummus, I really appreciate it. I almost didn't  post it as I thought I might have overdone it with hummus recipes, just a bit, as delicious as it is....however I wanted to have it there to access for myself anyway, but I'm glad so many people have checked it out.

Have a great weekend everyone and I hope you can find time to relax and enjoy some cake. I love this recipe so I'm looking forward to having some more. It's drizzling rain here with a couple of embedded storms coming across, which is wonderful, the first for quite a while so I can also feel a movie coming on later in the day.

Best wishes


Friday, October 12, 2018

Crispy Teriyaki Chicken Wings, they're delicious party food

Crispy Teriyaki chicken wings at a party are always delicious as finger food, and to my way of thinking they are definitely party food. I wouldn't cook them just for Mr. HRK and me now, however if the family or friends were visiting, well that is a different story. I used to cook them as a treat sometimes when the children were younger and lived at home, and as an easy meal with rice and a salad they also stretch the budget. I was planning ahead for a family party when I marinated these,  so they went into a large freezer bag until mid-September for the party. It is safe to freeze the marinated chicken wings for 6 months. They cooked beautifully on the night of the party and did the disappearing act. I was lucky to get a taste, let alone a photo. However my friends you all know what cooked chicken wings look like I'm sure, so I'm afraid you will have to use your imagination with this one.  Just take my word for it that they were finger lickin' good and so easy.

I paid $4.00 a kilo for these at Woolworths yesterday, but last week they were only $2.00 a kilo. Now that would be a bargain. At that price I am happy to prepare and cut them up myself. However if you are time poor and feeling cashed up, chicken wings already dissected can be purchased at Lenards Chicken for $10. 00 a kilo. I think they were also marinated though. That's quite a markup isn't it for only 20 minutes work, and I prefer to make my own  marinade as then I know what has gone into it. (Apologies, this was written a little while ago, I forgot that I hadn't posted it, so prices might have changed again.)


2 kg chicken Wings (Approximately 21-24 wings) Or 24 if you want to count out exactly 24 wings
3/4 cup (180 ml) Teryaki sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 crushed cloves garlic
2 red cayenne chillis ( only 1 if they are a bit hotter), finely chopped, and deseeded
1 tablespoons brown sugar (I used Dark Muscovado sugar)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Cooking Notes:
*I only substituted the Dark Muscovado sugar because I had no Brown sugar (Oops, I was sure I had bought some)
*I substituted Ground ginger for the fresh stuff because we have recently dehydrated a lot of our home grown fresh ginger and it is amazingly fragrant and flavoursome

Preparation of the Wings:

Cut the chicken wings into three pieces at the joints. I thought this would be more onerous than it was. It only took me about 10 minutes all up. I removed all of the wing tips first and froze them, and then with a twist of both parts of the wing, it was easy to locate the soft part in the middle between the bones and slice through.

Reserve the frozen wing tips for another use such as making soups from scratch. I have frozen mine in small ziplock bags to use in my next batch of chicken stock.

Let's cook:

In a large bowl, combine the Teryaki sauce, peanut oil, ginger, garlic, chilli, sugar, sesame oil,and Chinese five spice. Add the chicken and toss with the marinade to coat all of the wing pieces.
Cover and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight in the frig.

Preheat your oven to moderately hot, 180 degrees C.

Drain the marinade from the wings and discard. Place the wings on an oiled cake cooling rack over a baking dish. I used an Alfoil baking dish to save washing up because of the amount of cooking I was doing. I think that one batch of wings was cooked directly in the alfoil baking dish and they worked out well.

Roast the chicken uncovered in the oven for about 40 minutes until cooked through and brown. Turn them once after 20 minutes if possible.

These are attractive to serve sprinkled with a few sesame seeds and a green garnish.

Have you started thinking about your Christmas menu yet? I think these wings might be on mine this year, after all they are easy party food.

Thanks for visiting,

Best wishes


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Beetroot Hummus, a delicious vegetarian dip

In Australia, Summer doesn't officially commence until December 1st and continues through the three hottest months of the year until the end of February. Here in North Queensland, though, it feels as if Summer has arrived, although by December 1st it will probably be much hotter, unless we receive some much needed rain. I think it's fair to say though that in my part of the world, the Barbecue season has begun, which also involves invitations to Barbecues at friend's houses. Different cultures have different ideas about what to take to a friends house when invited for a BBQ (the Aussie abbreviation for a barbecue), however here in North Queensland, we always ask what the host would like us to bring, which is generally some beer or a bottle of wine, or a salad, or a dessert, or just a dip. Beetroot Hummus isn't just a dip, it is the perfect dip to take and there is a fair chance that not many people there will have already tasted it, not one homemade from scratch anyway.

If I have time, I always make this dip from scratch, which involves buying the fresh beetroot from the Farmer's Markets, boiling them, allowing them to cool and then removing the skins, chopping them up, and whizzing them up in the food processor with the other ingredients. The flavours are earthy and sweet, and the colour is a vibrant rich pink, one of my favourite colours for lots of things. Beetroot hummus can also be made from tinned or bottled beetroot which is fine, but the natural earthiness of the beetroot is slightly camouflaged by the pickling vinegar. Take this to a BBQ or even to a dinner invitation with some flatbread, sourdough bread, chopped vegetables or even crackers, and it will be a winner. I try to keep a batch in the refrigerator as a snack in between meals if we are feeling peckish, as it is very healthy and keeps for a couple of weeks. It also freezes well. I hope you try this recipe this weekend as I know you will enjoy it.


450g freshly cooked, cooled, peeled and chopped beetroot, or tinned or bottled chopped beetroot
400g freshly cooked chickpeas, or  tinned chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or 2 for more of a tang)
2-3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Place the cooled and chopped beetroot, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic in the food processor bowl and whizz up until thoroughly mixed to a paste.

Keep the motor running and slowly add the olive oil though the chute of the bowl. The mixture will thicken up and become smooth and start to develop some shape from the blades. Add a little more oil and lemon juice if it is still too thick.

Season with salt and pepper to your taste, mix again and spoon into your serving bowl.

Serve with warm sliced Turkish bread or Sourdough bread.

 I like to garnish mine with black and white sesame seeds and chopped parsley.

For more hummus recipes see:
Home made chickpea hummus
Parsley hummus

Add some pickled zucchini as well to the platter for extra pizazz.

What do you like to take to a BBQ if you are invited to one, and has your BBQ season started yet?

Hoping you have an enjoyable day in your part of the world, and keep smiling.

Best wishes,


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Slow Cooker Beef, Spinach and Prune Tagine

Honestly, when I was precooking the combination of onion and garlic with the fragrant spices in this dish, the cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and ginger, my mind drifted to our holiday a few years ago in amazing and exotic Granada in the south of Spain, just over the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco which is still on my bucket list by the way. The Moroccan style foods we ate in Granada were delicious including the tapas, and have probably given me the taste for Tagines and spicy vegetable accompaniments. Then I wandered to the famous spice markets in Istanbul, Turkey where the aroma from the piles of colourful spices are intoxicating. For my friends reading this who don't like eating dates in their food, and there are a couple, I actually think they could be left out of this dish but definitely keep the prunes.. There is enough going on without them. 

Yoghurt topped Borani Banjan, ready to serve

And Borani Banjan

I served the  Beef Tagine with  Borani Banjan, which is the most delicious layered Afghan Eggplant dish. Recipe here. Laden with fresh herbs and garlic, fresh tomatoes and yoghurt, Mr. HRK really likes this one. Fortunately I had enough Japanese eggplants growing in my garden so that I could use young and fresh eggplant which is important for this dish. Otherwise I would have bought some from the Farmers markets where they are plentiful as well. I don't think the large eggplants from the supermarket are tender or young enough for this dish, unless you salt them first and are a seasoned eggplant connoisseur. We still have some fresh coriander growing as well, but it is only a matter of time before this goes to seed and then dies off with the heat. If you feel like going meat free, Borani Banjan is delicious eaten on its own with rice or couscous. Yum!

Why did I go to this much trouble? We were having our friends from Tennis over for the weekly after tennis Dinner Party which everyone takes turns with hosting. Now all of these people are good cooks, and I was in the mood for doing something a bit different and which could stretch easily to feed 9 people or even more in case a couple of extras turned up. On a good night there can be 14 to feed. A Beef Tagine came to mind, and one that I could cook a day ahead in the slow cooker. That way the flavours improve even more, and also it left me time to prepare the accompanying dishes on the day. I've cooked a few Tagines over the years, and I think this one is the tastiest yet. I based my recipe on one I found in the Australian Women's Weekly Best of Slow Cooking Cookbook which was originally for 6 serves. We enjoyed leftovers for the next couple of days, and also gave a couple of our  friends a takeaway container with leftovers.

Let's Cook:
Tonight's Tennis Dinner Menu

Beef, Spinach and Prune Tagine
Borani Banjan
Couscous Salad with Fresh Mint, Coriander and Parsley
Jamie Oliver's Flatbread

Tagine Ingredients:
Serves 10
A 4.5 litre slow cooker

1.8 kg Chuck or Beef Blade Steak chopped into chunks (It can be cheaper if you chop it up yourself, although some Butchers if you ask will chop it up for free)

Chuck steak which Mr. HRK chopped up for me
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2  red onions
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 cups beef stock
600 g canned diced tomatoes
150 g seeded dried dates
240 g pitted prunes
1 Bunch spinach, trimmed and chopped (270 g after trimming), or use Baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon rind
70 g coarsely chopped roasted unsalted pistachios to serve
Chopped coriander and mint to serve


  1. Toss the beef in the flour. Heat half of the oil and turn a large frying pan onto a high heat. Cook the beef  quickly in batches until browned on all sides being careful it doesn't stew. When browned, transfer the lot to the slow cooker bowl. You may need to add some more oil if the beef is sticking.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and a moderate heat. Cook the onion and the garlic, stirring together, until the onion has softened. During this process you will be scraping up the brownings from the base of the pan. This will give the tagine a fantastic flavour. Add the spices and stir until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup of the stock and stir until the mixture boils.
  3. Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker bowl with the rest of the stock and the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Cook in  your slow cooker on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
  4. Add the dates, prunes, spinach, and half the preserved lemon rind. Cook covered on high until the spinach wilts, about 10 minutes. Or this step could be added when the Tagine is reheated the following day like I did. Season to taste.

 I served this Tagine in my earthenware Moroccan Tagine pot, so here it is soaking in the bath a couple of days before I used it. If the bases are left for a long period of time without using them, the base will crack over high heat. Thankfully this has never happened to me.

When the Tagine needs to be kept hot on the day of the dinner, I place it in the base of the Tagine, cover it in foil and keep it warm in the oven at 90 degrees Celsius. Then I add the conical lid to the Tagine base and serve. If I had a gas stove, I would probably just keep it heated up on the stove top.

To serve, sprinkle the Tagine with pistachio nuts and the remaining preserved lemon rind. I bought a jar of Preserved lemons at a specialty grocery and fruit shop, and a couple of pieces  are sliced finely on top of the Tagine. I served it with my Couscous salad and lots of fresh herbs (recipe).

Serve with flatbread to mop up all the delicious juices. We used Jamie Oliver's recipe to make these. Mr. HRK did a great job, making two separate batches, cooked on the BBQ, and flavoured with tarragon and rosemary infused olive oil. He prefers to do most of his cooking on the BBQ if he can. I think that it's a man's thing.

Flatbread dough

Home grown Tarragon and Rosemary infused olive oil

Flatbread cooking on the BBQ

If you try these recipes, I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Thanks for dropping by,

Bye for now