Monday, 11 February 2019

To Beehive or not to Beehive


We returned from holidays to discover to our surprise and excitement that there was an active beehive on  one of our palm trees in the backyard. A couple of years ago Mr. HRK built a bird box hoping to attract some nesting birds. Well they haven't take up his offer, preferring to nest in our large  Paperbark tree and the Golden Penda tree, however a swarm of European honey bees have moved in, with presumably the Queen Bee happily ensconced in her new home, and the hive surrounding the Bird box continues to grow.  There is probably quite a lot of honey inside already. So we are now sharing our environment with these beautiful, industrious and fragile creatures which we know little about. Bees in Australia are among the  most disease free in the world, however they still face many threats.

With all of this in mind we have slept on our situation for a couple of weeks now, wondering if we should just leave the hive there  so that the bees will fertilise our garden plants and improve our environment, or move them to a hive where we can protect them a lot better and can also enjoy the honey they produce. The risk is that the hive will outgrow our bird box and the bees will move on. We have decided to try and move the bees to a proper hive. After talking to a couple of local apiarists, Mr. HRK is now building two wooden beehive boxes based on the measurements of one he has borrowed, as strangely all the measurements available for building your own beehive are in imperial.




So the bee hive boxes are almost built, and the next stage before the next deluge of rain comes is to move our hive to one of the newly constructed beehive boxes. We will need to order a second Queen bee and have her delivered in the post in a capsule to start the second hive. If you  watched Catalyst, about the Great Australian Bee Challenge competition on the ABC, you might remember that one of the families also needed to do that. So we are busily collecting information, reading all we can about the process, so watch this space. It's an exciting thought to have two beehives in our suburban garden. By all accounts, the bees thrive better in suburban gardens than in the bush, because there are always flowers in suburban gardens, whereas during the dry conditions or heavy rain in the bush there may be nothing flowering for them to feed on.

The second episode of our beehive story is in progress and I hope to tell you about it soon. Life is never dull in our backyard. Moving beehives  a metre at a time is a story in itself and ours is no different. That is the next story to be told.




Gordon, our wise gnome, and a Christmas present from our daughter, is keeping an eye on the situation.

Here a couple of ideas for delicious Summer salads. These were made by Paul, a good food loving friend of ours. He just possesses the knack on how to prepare an attractive salad.



More garden news. Recently our Golden Penda was flowering and the visiting Lorikeets put on a quite a show at our nearby watering hole. They didn't seem to mind that it was just water in there, and they were so noisy and possessive of the bird bath.








Thanks very much to those of you who have sent well wishes already about my mouth surgery. I survived 2 hours of sitting in a comfortable dental chair, in hospital surgery conditions, but saved myself $2,000 by not having it done in a hospital operating room.The dental surgeon and the dental assistants were so caring and attentive. Today I am recuperating with a swollen face, no more bleeding, but not much pain thanks to some medication, so I think it went well. I'll make the most of having a sickie today:) Mr. HRK is being very attentive and cooked delicious scrambled eggs for brekkie. I am still on soft foods, and am looking forward to the ice cream for dessert.

Take care everyone,

Cheerio,

Pauline.


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Peach, Blackberry and Yoghurt Dessert Cake





The very thought of cooking this peach and blackberry cake has been quite exciting to me. The quality of the fruit is excellent at the moment, and the photo of this cake in the latest monthly Fresh magazine has had me salivating over it for a couple of weeks.  My Friends, I'm sure you know what I mean. The stone fruit season is very short here in the North, and with the Townsville floods, fresh fruit has been in short supply. Who would have thought that all of the fresh supermarket produce for Mackay, is flown into Townsville and trucked down here, at least 4 hours away.  During the floods, it just didn't arrive. After baking this cake, I have decided that it is best served as a dessert, and not for afternoon tea, however with oodles of whipped cream, it would probably be very acceptable as part of a High Tea.  I also needed to make a Sunday cake, comfort food for the soul, as early tomorrow morning I am having gum surgery for two teeth implants. HELP!!


I won't go into the details but I will be in very good hands with an experienced dental surgeon. I know that I will be a little fragile for a few days and soft foods will be on my menu. I've told Mr. HRK that the frig and freezer are at his disposal, they are well stocked, but I will be having soups, eggs, and ice cream. 


When I wrote the caption on this photo of the uncooked cake, I wasn't thinking of myself but of the residents of Townsville who are still struggling to restore their homes and lives. This photo is of the cake before it was cooked, and shows the effort I took to arrange the peach and blackberry slices decoratively. However when the cake cooked, the batter rose up over most of the peaches, hence the result in the photo at the top. Whilst the recipe said to slice the peaches thinly, I would suggest if you are making the cake to slice them a little thicker and very loosely on top of the cake. The advantages of having a test kitchen and a team of photographers etc at one's disposal to produce an amazing photo such as in the magazine can't be underestimated. However the cake still tastes delicious, isn't too sweet,  is packed with fruit,  and honestly in my home situation it's not all about looks is it?

Let's Cook:

Ingredients:

160g butter softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 cup Greek yoghurt
2 free range eggs, at room temperature
3 firm yellow peaches, halved, and destoned with skin on
125g punnet blackberries
1/4 cup peach or apricot jam
Thickened cream, to serve




Let's cook:

Dice 1 1/2 peaches and set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C. Grease a 22 cm spring form cake pan and line the base with baking paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together with your electric mixer or Kitchen Aid until well mixed, and pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, individually, beating well after each one.
Sift the flour and baking powder together, and add gradually to the mixing bowl on a slow speed until just combined.



Stir the diced peaches gently into the cake mixture. This is where it is important that the flesh is firm so that it doesn't break down too much in the cake.



Spoon the mixture into the cake pan. Slice the remaining peaches  into thick wedges, and arrange over the surface decoratively, overlapping the slices. Scatter the blackberries on top of the peaches.The fruit shouldn't be pressed into the cake batter at all, but placed loosely on top,  as the cake will rise and we want the fruit slices to keep their integrity on top of the cake.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean it is cooked.

While the cake is cooking, heat the peach jam and 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Strain the melted jam and brush the clear jam liquid over the hot cake.



The cake is delicious served with whipped cream as a dessert.

Take care and thanks for coming by, I'll be in touch:)
Have a great week,

Pauline.







Wednesday, 6 February 2019

It's Chilli Con Carne on a Rainy day


Hello everyone from the wet North. I am thinking of hot and spicy foods as the weather is still quite cool with the rain bucketing down, as the Monsoonal trough still hovers over us. No complaints though, as we aren't suffering from flooding on the same scale that Townsville is. My heart goes out to them. Chilli Con Carne is nothing new as a main meal dish, and is still popular in most households. It has stood the test of time, as has other Mexican food. After all the Christmas foods we consumed, I needed something spicy to eat but also simple to make. I didn't cook this when little Hugo, our two and a half year old grandson was here as I thought it might be too spicy for him, and his Mother is French and doesn't like spicy foods, so I was really looking forward to the earthy spiciness of this dish for a change.

I thought I had all of the essential ingredients in my pantry, as I always have cans of tomatoes, kidney beans, paprika, mince etc.  I was ready to start cooking, and when I opened my pantry I discovered that there wasn't a single can of tomatoes on the shelf. Don't you just groan when that happens?  Then it dawned on me that my no. 1 son had made a delicious huge pot of pasta sauce when they were here, and the tomatoes hadn't been replenished. Has this ever happened to you? No complaints from me though as I love it when my children start cooking in the kitchen when they are visiting.



Out of this situation however came some improvisation and a good idea, as I spotted the jars of tomato passata I had made four years ago and hadn't been used up yet. Miraculously the contents of the large jar I opened were still perfect and the flavour had mellowed beautifully. I remembered that I had made this passata when I had kilos of beautiful Bowen Roma tomatoes, and my passata was a variation of my tomato relish recipe, and a little experimental at the time. So I used the passata instead of canned tomatoes and also used a sachet of bought tomato paste for a little more acidity and flavour and the result was delicious. Mr. HRK loved it. Not too hot but earthy  and perfectly spicy, just how we like it and with a lot of flavour. You can find my tomato passata recipe here.



All of those jars of homemade preserves, relishes, and pickles etc never go astray and can be the vital addition to a meal, and they last a long time if everything is very clean and sterilised to start with. However in this recipe for Chilli con Carne, you can just substitute canned tomatoes for the passata.

Ingredients:

750g lean beef mince
125 g chopped bacon
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped finely
2 red capsicums
1 cayenne chilli (the long red one)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 tablespoons Mexican chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it)
1 large bottle of passata and 1 sachet of tomato paste (or 800g can chopped tomatoes)
1 cup of water
400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped avocado and chopped tomato for serving.

Method:

Fry the bacon in the olive oil over a moderate heat until crisp. Add the mince and onions, stirring with a spoon to break up the mince until it is browned, about 15 minutes.

Add the capsicums,  and chopped chilli. Cook until the vegetables are soft and then add the chilli powder. Stir this for a further minute or so until the you can smell the fragrance of the chilli powder.

Add the tomato passata, tomato paste, or can of tomatoes and 1 cup of cold water. Bring this to the boil and return to a simmer.

Continue to cook the pot on a low heat until the sauce has thickened and liquid has reduced.

Serve the chilli with rice and whatever toppings you enjoy. I love it with sour cream, and chopped lettuce and tomato and avocado if I have them. I also like to spoon a little of my Sweet Chilli Jam over the sour cream. YUM!

Enjoy and thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes,

Pauline


Sunday, 3 February 2019

A very healthy Cypriot Grain Salad


This Grain Salad encapsulates all that is healthy and delicious, and as we are now being told in the best interests of our health and the planet to reduce our meat consumption and increase the amount of healthy grains, fruit and vegetables in our diet I thought I would give this one a try. If like me you haven't delved into the world of grain salads very much, this one is great to start with. I always have a variety of leftover grains, nuts and lentils in jars in my pantry so I already had most of the ingredients on hand. I chose quinoa as the main grain as I wanted to use what I had left, however cracked wheat, freekah (green wheat), or bulgur, would work equally as well.  This salad recipe isn't an original one, I have tweeked it a little bit, but it is a George Calombaris recipe which I had tasted at a luncheon recently and saved the recipe, so here it is. The coriander and parsley combined with the dressings bring it to life. However dear reader if you don't like coriander, then leave it out and  substitute something else.

Honestly, there are simpler versions of this salad out there, but toasting the nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds brings out their unique flavours and crunch so for a special occasion this is worthwhile. It takes no time at all to toast the pumpkin seeds so my advice is not to leave the stove while you are toasting grains. I had a close call at Christmas time when I was toasting pine nuts in a small frypan on the stove for the traditional Wombok salad, got distracted by all the excitement, and well you guessed it, there were  a few burnt ones as a result. Mr. HRK very kindly picked them out for me, and life went on, however lesson learned. Has that ever happened to you?

 I prepared this salad on the day prior to us eating it, and then just garnished it with the Cumin Yoghurt Dressing and pretty pomegranate seeds just before serving it. The beauty of a Grain Salad is that even though it is dressed with a light salad dressing, it is still fresh two days later.


This went beautifully with my Mediterranean Chicken Marbella recipe and a green salad.

Chicken Marbella, a delicious tray bake
Cypriot Grain Salad
Ingredients:
1/2 red onion finely diced
1 cup of quinoa (or freekah, bulgur or other grain)
1/2 cup Puy lentils
1 bunch chopped coriander
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
2 tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp. toasted slivered almonds
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp. baby capers
1/2 cup currants
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1 pomegranate, deseeded to serve

Cumin Yoghurt Dressing: - 

1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground (essential)
1 tbsp. honey

Method:

Boil quinoa and lentils separately  in boiling water until both are just cooked. Drain very well and allow to cool.

Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl, except the yoghurt dressing,  and mix well. Season to taste. Whisk the oil and lemon juice dressing in a small jar until it emulsifies and add to the grains.This can now be left covered in the jar in the refrigerator for a day if necessary.



Just before eating, place the grain salad in a serving dish and top with the delicious Cumin Yoghurt.

Garnish and decorate with pomegranate seeds.

I will be cooking fairly simple and tasty foods now, that don't take much time to prepare, as I have resumed writing my other blog,  the history of my Great Great Grandfather, Thomas Dudgeon,  who was a successful Landscape Artist in Scotland and Ireland.  Mr. HRK has been researching the genealogy of my family for a long time and finally I have decided to write it up as a blog, and who knows, maybe publish it at a later date. I really enjoy the process of writing, and am loving being able to write up  in Thomas's interesting life and also that of my Great Grandmother, Ellen Stella DeLandelles, who was his daughter. If you would like to take a peek at the latest post (no. 12) that I wrote this is the link: There is also a summary of it as a post that may be easier to read. I also need to do some work on the layout of the pages so that will take some time.

As I write this I am also thinking of all the residents in Townsville, 4 hours North of here by car,  who are really doing it tough with loss of power, serious flooding, and being isolated. This weather event is unprecedented in Townsville. Townsville is normally considered quite a dry area, and when we lived there for ten years in the 1980's, it was so dry and hot that many of us were sinking a water bore in our backyards. Rain has also started here in Mackay again so I am hoping that means the rain is moving south from Townsville or back out to sea. Time will tell. It's good writing weather, and shortly I will have a pot of chicken stock simmering on the stove. It's good soup weather while the rain lasts.

Best wishes my friends and I hope you have a safe and enjoyable week. Thanks for visiting.

Pauline